Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney offered a sharp rebuke of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy efforts over the past four years, accusing the Democrat of failing to lead and costing America its credibility across the Middle East.
"It is time to change course in the Middle East," Romney said. "I believe that if America does not lead, others will—others who do not share our interests and our values—and the world will grow darker, for our friends and for us."
Romney blasted the Obama administration for its failure to back democratic uprisings in several Middle Eastern nations, arguing, "America’s security and the cause of freedom cannot afford four more years like the last four years."
Romney said that America has the responsibility to shape events for the better—not sit back and react to the world.
"I believe the leader of the free world has a duty, to our citizens and to our friends everywhere, to use America’s great influence—wisely, with solemnity and without false pride, but also firmly and actively—to shape events in ways that secure our interests, further our values, prevent conflict, and make the world better—not perfect, but better," Romney said. "Hope is not a strategy."
The Republican also blasted the Obama administration for misleading the American public about a deadly attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya.
"The attacks on America last month should not be seen as random acts," Romney said, referring to Obama administration officials who maintained the attacks were spontaneous. "This latest assault cannot be blamed on a reprehensible video insulting Islam, despite the Administration’s attempts to convince us of that for so long."
These attacks are "expressions of a larger struggle that is playing out across the broader Middle East—a region that is now in the midst of the most profound upheaval in a century," he said. "It is a struggle between liberty and tyranny, justice and oppression, hope and despair."
Romney promised that as president, his administration would support those longing for freedom from tyrants. This, however, cannot be accomplished through empty rhetoric.
"We cannot support our friends and defeat our enemies in the Middle East when our words are not backed up by deeds, when our defense spending is being arbitrarily and deeply cut, when we have no trade agenda to speak of, and the perception of our strategy is not one of partnership, but of passivity," Romney said.
The U.S. "must have confidence in our cause, clarity in our purpose and resolve in our might," he said. "No friend of America will question our commitment to support them … no enemy that attacks America will question our resolve to defeat them … and no one anywhere, friend or foe, will doubt America’s capability to back up our words."
Romney also promised to heal the rift between Israel and America.
"The relationship between the president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel, our closest ally in the region, has suffered great strains," Romney said. "The president explicitly stated that his goal was to put ‘daylight’ between the United States and Israel—and he has succeeded."
Tensions with Israel, Romney argued, have "set back the hope of peace in the Middle East and emboldened our mutual adversaries, especially Iran"—a regime that Romney promised to confront.
"I will reaffirm our historic ties to Israel and our abiding commitment to its security—the world must never see any daylight between our two nations," he said, adding that "the president has failed" to make America a credible arbiter in peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.
"What should be a negotiation process has devolved into a series of heated disputes at the United Nations," he said. "In this old conflict, as in every challenge we face in the Middle East, only a new President will bring the chance to begin anew."
As a sign of America’s unwavering commitment to the Jewish state, "I will put the leaders of Iran on notice that the United States and our friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons capability," Romney said. "I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran and will tighten the sanctions we currently have."
Romney also would "restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf region—and work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination."
To achieve such a mission, Romney would roll back nearly $500 billion in proposed defense cuts championed by the Obama administration.
"I will roll back President Obama’s deep and arbitrary cuts to our national defense that would devastate our military," Romney said. "I will make the critical defense investments that we need to remain secure."