Updated 2:32 p.m. Eastern Time
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Friday said that he believes America should be "the strongest nation on earth" and argued for an increase in military spending to ensure that the United States can assert military dominance over other nations.
"It is only American power--conceived in the broadest terms--that can provide the foundation of an international system that ensures the security and prosperity of the United States and our friends and allies around the world," Romney said during a speech at the Citadel in South Carolina.
Calling for this to be an "American century" in which "America leads the free world and the free world leads the entire world," he said that a "feckless" President Obama mistakenly believes that "there is nothing unique about the United States." Romney argued that the president has weakened the nation economically, militarily and in terms of "the enduring strength of our values."
"America is not destined to be one of several equally balanced global powers," said the former Massachusetts governor. "America must lead the world, or someone else will. Without American leadership, without clarity of American purpose and resolve, the world becomes a far more dangerous place, and liberty and prosperity would surely be among the first casualties."
Romney, who used a teleprompter, spoke for about 30 minutes in front of about 450 people in what his campaign billed as a major foreign policy speech. Top Gun music played in the background before the speech as cadets filed onstage to sit behind Romney.
In his remarks, Romney said America faces threats from growing nations seeking greater influence (China and Russia), from failed or failing states (Somalia and Pakistan), from rogue nations (Iran and North Korea), from "radical Islamic Jihadism" and because of uncertainty in the Middle East.
The unifying thread of his approach to these problems, he said, would be an assertion of strong American power. He called for "clarity and resolve" in American foreign policy so that both allies and enemies "know where we stand," for America to "promote open markets, representative government, and respect for human rights," and for "the United States [to] apply the full spectrum of hard and soft power to influence events before they erupt into conflict."
"The United States should always retain military supremacy to deter would-be aggressors and to defend our allies and ourselves," he said. "If America is the undisputed leader of the world, it reduces our need to police a more chaotic world."
In an implied criticism of Mr. Obama's handling of military intervention in Libya, where Western European nations took a leadership role, Romney called for America to lead multilateral organizations and alliances.
In terms of concrete proposals, Romney called for an increase in spending on naval defense, calling for the shipbuilding rate to be raised from nine ships per year to 15 ships. He also called for a reversal of "Obama-era cuts to national missile defense," saying he would "prioritize the full deployment of a multilayered national ballistic missile defense system."
Romney said he would order the "regular presence" of aircraft carriers near Iran, "reiterate that Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is unacceptable," and increase military assistance to Israel.
Romney also said he would "launch a campaign to advance economic opportunity in Latin America, and contrast the benefits of democracy, free trade, and free enterprise against the material and moral bankruptcy of the Venezuelan and Cuban model." And he said he would "order a full review of our transition to the Afghan military to secure that nation's sovereignty from the tyranny of the Taliban."
In calling for an increase in government spending on the military, Romney did not address the nation's massive debt and deficit or how he would pay for the increased spending.
"This is America's moment," he said. "We should embrace the challenge, not shrink from it, not crawl into an isolationist shell, not wave the white flag of surrender, nor give in to those who assert America's time has passed. That is utter nonsense. An eloquently justified surrender of world leadership is still surrender."
A white paper explaining Romney's position is here.
In response to the remarks, Obama Campaign Spokesman Ben Labolt released a statement saying Romney "raised real questions about his capacity to lead this country and wage the fight against terrorism."
"He didn't outline a strategy to strengthen America's security and promote our interests and didn't even identify defeating al Qaeda as a goal," Labolt said. "President Obama has degraded al Qaeda and dealt huge blows to its leadership, including eliminating Osama Bin Laden, ended the war in Iraq, promoted our security in Afghanistan while winding down our commitment in a responsible way and strengthened American leadership around the world. Governor Romney proves once again that he is willing to say anything, regardless of the facts, to get elected."