Romney: Obama has led America to "atrophy"

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative, Sept. 25, 2012, in New York. AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

(CBS News) Mitt Romney is out with a foreign-policy focused op-ed where he criticizes President Obama's strategy in the Middle East for lacking coherence and resolve. In his prescription for success, Romney connects success overseas with economic success domestically.

"President Obama has allowed our leadership to atrophy," Romney wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

"Our military, tested by a decade of war, is facing devastating cuts thanks to the budgetary games played by the White House. Finally, our values have been misapplied--and misunderstood--by a president who thinks that weakness will win favor with our adversaries," Romney wrote.

Tying in the importance of domestic economic security to international defense, Romney bashes the current state of economic affairs. "Our economy is stuck in a 'recovery' that barely deserves the name. Our national debt has risen to record levels," he wrote.

Pointing to ongoing challenges in the Middle East, including the civil war in Syria, the election of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and Iran's progress toward a nuclear weapon, Romney wrote that the U.S.'s standing in the world matters, calling recent developments "dangerous."

"If the Middle East descends into chaos, if Iran moves toward nuclear breakout, or if Israel's security is compromised, America could be pulled into the maelstrom," the Republican presidential candidate wrote just five weeks before Election Day.

The op-ed comes one week after Romney delivered his most encompassing foreign policy speech at the Clinton Global Initiative conference where he said American-aided economic development would result in greater stability overseas.

Romney's foreign policy strategy has received criticism after he failed to mention the war in Afghanistan in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. He also came under fire from some in his own party for jumping the gun in his response to the protests that started outside of the United States embassy in Cairo earlier this month. Romney released a statement, which criticized the Obama administration's handling of the event, while events on the ground were still unfolding. Amid protests outside the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, four Americans were killed, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens.

The president, meanwhile, has faced his own foreign policy challenges in recent weeks. He has been criticized for not meeting with international leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while in New York for the opening of the United Nation's General Assembly. His ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, initially said the anti-American protests that quickly spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa were "spontaneous," but the administration days later said the attack that killed Stevens was a terrorist attack.

"He does not understand that an American policy that lacks resolve can provoke aggression and encourage disorder," Romney wrote. "In this period of uncertainty, we need to apply a coherent strategy of supporting our partners in the Middle East - that is, both governments and individuals who share our values."

Romney said Americans would see "no daylight between the United States and Israel" and "the ayatollahs must be made to believe us" when the U.S. says a nuclear weapon in Iran is unacceptable. Romney also said he would use "soft power" to ensure "liberty and opportunity" to emerging democracies in the Middle East.

Heading into the first presidential debate, which will focus on domestic policy, Romney wrote that domestic economic security will be crucial to renewing international strength.

"[T]his Middle East policy will be undermined unless we restore the three sinews of our influence: our economic strength, our military strength and the strength of our values. That will require a very different set of policies from those President Obama is pursuing."

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    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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