Charleston, South Carolina (CNN) – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney unveiled a foreign policy blueprint Friday he said will restore America's worldwide dominance, drawing contrasts to President Barack Obama. But critics chastised him for laying out policies closely aligned with the Bush administration.
Speaking Friday at The Military College of South Carolina, known as The Citadel, the former Massachusetts governor called for "an American century," declaring the nation's economy and defense "have been weakened" under Obama's leadership.
"God did not create this country to be a nation of followers," said Romney. "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."
Young cadets in the audience applauded when Romney took a swipe at the commander-in-chief saying, "I will never, ever apologize for America."
Reading from a teleprompter, the two-time presidential candidate accused Obama of engaging in reactionary foreign policy, which he said would be avoided in a Romney administration because he understands emerging threats.
"It's far too easy for a president to jump from crisis to crisis, dealing with one hot spot after another," said Romney, noting that he would "avoid this paralyzing seduction of action rather than progress" by having a "broad vision of the world coupled with clarity of purpose."
Romney presented eight foreign policy-related actions he would implement in his first 100 days as president. He said part of rebuilding the economy would require reversing "Obama's massive defense cuts," and will begin with investing in expanding the United States warship fleet.
On Thursday, Romney announced his foreign policy advisers (include link to yesterday's story), many of whom are drawn from the Bush's administration including former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, Jim Wilkinson, Meghan O'Sullivan and Dan Senor.
While Romney has previously called for America to withdraw from Afghanistan, Democrats were quick to criticize his new national security team as the group responsible for U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan in the first place. The Democratic National Committee wasted no time pointing out the similarities.
A senior Romney aide, who would not speak on the record about the matter, acknowledged policy similarities to the last Republican administration but said Romney's approach would be much more focused and business-like.
"I don't know if it's a departure in policy, I think it's a different approach," the aide said, adding that one area that distinguishes Romney's blueprint from the two previous administrations is his diplomatic commitment to Latin America with a number of initiatives that include supporting Democratic allies and establishing a "robust public-diplomacy and trade promotion campaign."
Speaking on the 10-year anniversary of United States military engagement in Afghanistan, the former governor said an early administration priority would be to review the need for a continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan, with an emphasis of consulting generals on the ground.
"The force level necessary to secure our gains and complete our mission successfully is a decision I will make free from politics," he said.
Romney campaigned for two days in South Carolina, delivering two speeches in military settings in this pivotal early primary state that has a significant active military and veteran population. Over 1,400 alumni from The Citadel alone have served in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the last decade.