CHARLESTON, S.C. — In a Republican presidential contest that so far has been largely free of foreign policy concerns, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney tried to stake out some new ground Friday by presenting his vision for what he called a new "American century."
Romney outlined an agenda to strengthen the nation's defense, using the first major foreign affairs address of his 2012 campaign to try to draw a sharp contrast between how he and President Barack Obama view America's role in the world. Romney called Obama's world view "profoundly mistaken" and went so far as to suggest that the president does not value a strong America.
"An eloquently justified surrender of world leadership is still surrender," Romney said. "I will not surrender America's role in the world. This is very simple: If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on Earth, I'm not your president. You have that president today."
But in many ways, Romney proposed many of the same policies Obama has pursued, only speaking of them in the more hawkish language of former President George W. Bush and earlier Republican presidents.
Romney made clear he favored working through multilateral institutions that Bush often found entangling, including the United Nations, although he said he would reserve the right to act alone. He said that as president he would immediately assess U.S. troop commitments in Afghanistan and would survey generals in the field to make a decision about the war's future that is "free of politics."
"This century must be an American century," Romney said. "In an American century, America leads the free world and the free world leads the entire world.''