October 8th, 2012
12:07 PM ET
10 years ago

Full remarks: Romney foreign policy speech

(CNN) - GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney delivered remarks on foreign policy Monday in Virginia. Below is the full text of his remarks, as released by his campaign.

I particularly appreciate the introduction from my good friend and tireless campaign companion, Gov. Bob McDonnell. He is showing what conservative leadership can do to build a stronger economy. Thank you also Congressman Goodlatte for joining us today. And particular thanks to Gen. Peay. I appreciate your invitation to be with you today at the Virginia Military Institute. It is a great privilege to be here at an Institution that has done so much for our nation, both in war and in peace.

For more than 170 years, VMI has done more than educate students. It has guided their transformation into citizens, and warriors, and leaders. VMI graduates have served with honor in our nation’s defense, just as many are doing today in Afghanistan and other lands. Since the September 11th attacks, many of VMI’s sons and daughters have defended America, and I mourn with you the 15 brave souls who have been lost. I join you in praying for the many VMI graduates and all Americans who are now serving in harm’s way. May God bless all who serve, and all who have served.

Of all the VMI graduates, none is more distinguished than George Marshall—the Chief of Staff of the Army who became Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense, who helped to vanquish fascism and then planned Europe’s rescue from despair. His commitment to peace was born of his direct knowledge of the awful costs and consequences of war.

General Marshall once said, “The only way human beings can win a war is to prevent it.” Those words were true in his time—and they still echo in ours.

Last month, our nation was attacked again. A U.S. Ambassador and three of our fellow Americans are dead—murdered in Benghazi, Libya. Among the dead were three veterans. All of them were fine men, on a mission of peace and friendship to a nation that dearly longs for both. President Obama has said that Ambassador Chris Stevens and his colleagues represented the best of America. And he is right. We all mourn their loss.

The attacks against us in Libya were not an isolated incident. They were accompanied by anti-American riots in nearly two dozen other countries, mostly in the Middle East, but also in Africa and Asia. Our embassies have been attacked. Our flag has been burned. Many of our citizens have been threatened and driven from their overseas homes by vicious mobs, shouting “Death to America.” These mobs hoisted the black banner of Islamic extremism over American embassies on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

As the dust settles, as the murdered are buried, Americans are asking how this happened, how the threats we face have grown so much worse, and what this calls on America to do. These are the right questions. And I have come here today to offer a larger perspective on these tragic recent events—and to share with you, and all Americans, my vision for a freer, more prosperous, and more peaceful world.

The attacks on America last month should not be seen as random acts. They 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. And the fault lines of this struggle can be seen clearly in Benghazi itself.

The attack on our Consulate in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012 was likely the work of forces affiliated with those that attacked our homeland on September 11th, 2001. 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. No, as the Administration has finally conceded, these attacks were the deliberate work of terrorists who use violence to impose their dark ideology on others, especially women and girls; who are fighting to control much of the Middle East today; and who seek to wage perpetual war on the West.

We saw all of this in Benghazi last month—but we also saw something else, something hopeful. After the attack on our Consulate, tens of thousands of Libyans, most of them young people, held a massive protest in Benghazi against the very extremists who murdered our people. They waved signs that read, “The Ambassador was Libya’s friend” and “Libya is sorry.” They chanted “No to militias.” They marched, unarmed, to the terrorist compound. Then they burned it to the ground. As one Libyan woman said, “We are not going to go from darkness to darkness.”

This is the struggle that is now shaking the entire Middle East to its foundation. It is the struggle of millions and millions of people—men and women, young and old, Muslims, Christians and non-believers—all of whom have had enough of the darkness. It is a struggle for the dignity that comes with freedom, and opportunity, and the right to live under laws of our own making. It is a struggle that has unfolded under green banners in the streets of Iran, in the public squares of Tunisia and Egypt and Yemen, and in the fights for liberty in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and Libya, and now Syria. In short, it is a struggle between liberty and tyranny, justice and oppression, hope and despair.

We have seen this struggle before. It would be familiar to George Marshall. In his time, in the ashes of world war, another critical part of the world was torn between democracy and despotism. Fortunately, we had leaders of courage and vision, both Republicans and Democrats, who knew that America had to support friends who shared our values, and prevent today’s crises from becoming tomorrow’s conflicts.

Statesmen like Marshall rallied our nation to rise to its responsibilities as the leader of the free world. We helped our friends to build and sustain free societies and free markets. We defended our friends, and ourselves, from our common enemies. We led. And though the path was long and uncertain, the thought of war in Europe is as inconceivable today as it seemed inevitable in the last century.

This is what makes America exceptional: It is not just the character of our country—it is the record of our accomplishments. America has a proud history of strong, confident, principled global leadership—a history that has been written by patriots of both parties. That is America at its best. And it is the standard by which we measure every President, as well as anyone who wishes to be President. Unfortunately, this President’s policies have not been equal to our best examples of world leadership. And nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East.

I want to be very clear: The blame for the murder of our people in Libya, and the attacks on our embassies in so many other countries, lies solely with those who carried them out—no one else. But it is the responsibility of our President to use America’s great power to shape history—not to lead from behind, leaving our destiny at the mercy of events. Unfortunately, that is exactly where we find ourselves in the Middle East under President Obama.

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. The President explicitly stated that his goal was to put “daylight” between the United States and Israel. And he has succeeded. This is a dangerous situation that has set back the hope of peace in the Middle East and emboldened our mutual adversaries, especially Iran.

Iran today has never been closer to a nuclear weapons capability. It has never posed a greater danger to our friends, our allies, and to us. And it has never acted less deterred by America, as was made clear last year when Iranian agents plotted to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in our nation’s capital. And yet, when millions of Iranians took to the streets in June of 2009, when they demanded freedom from a cruel regime that threatens the world, when they cried out, “Are you with us, or are you with them?”—the American President was silent.

Across the greater Middle East, as the joy born from the downfall of dictators has given way to the painstaking work of building capable security forces, and growing economies, and developing democratic institutions, the President has failed to offer the tangible support that our partners want and need.

In Iraq, the costly gains made by our troops are being eroded by rising violence, a resurgent Al-Qaeda, the weakening of democracy in Baghdad, and the rising influence of Iran. And yet, America’s ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence. The President tried—and failed—to secure a responsible and gradual drawdown that would have better secured our gains.

The President has failed to lead in Syria, where more than 30,000 men, women, and children have been massacred by the Assad regime over the past 20 months. Violent extremists are flowing into the fight. Our ally Turkey has been attacked. And the conflict threatens stability in the region.

America can take pride in the blows that our military and intelligence professionals have inflicted on Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, including the killing of Osama bin Laden. These are real achievements won at a high cost. But Al-Qaeda remains a strong force in Yemen and Somalia, in Libya and other parts of North Africa, in Iraq, and now in Syria. And other extremists have gained ground across the region. Drones and the modern instruments of war are important tools in our fight, but they are no substitute for a national security strategy for the Middle East.

The President is fond of saying that “The tide of war is receding.” And I want to believe him as much as anyone. But when we look at the Middle East today—with Iran closer than ever to nuclear weapons capability, with the conflict in Syria threating to destabilize the region, with violent extremists on the march, and with an American Ambassador and three others dead likely at the hands of Al-Qaeda affiliates— it is clear that the risk of conflict in the region is higher now than when the President took office.

I know the President hopes for a safer, freer, and a more prosperous Middle East allied with the United States. I share this hope. But hope is not a strategy. 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.

The greater tragedy of it all is that we are missing an historic opportunity to win new friends who share our values in the Middle East—friends who are fighting for their own futures against the very same violent extremists, and evil tyrants, and angry mobs who seek to harm us. Unfortunately, so many of these people who could be our friends feel that our President is indifferent to their quest for freedom and dignity. As one Syrian woman put it, “We will not forget that you forgot about us.”

It is time to change course in the Middle East. That course should be organized around these bedrock principles: America must have confidence in our cause, clarity in our purpose and resolve in our might. 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.

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. I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran, and will tighten the sanctions we currently have. I will 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. For the sake of peace, we must make clear to Iran through actions—not just words—that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated.

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.

I will deepen our critical cooperation with our partners in the Gulf.

And I will roll back President Obama’s deep and arbitrary cuts to our national defense that would devastate our military. I will make the critical defense investments that we need to remain secure. The decisions we make today will determine our ability to protect America tomorrow. The first purpose of a strong military is to prevent war.

The size of our Navy is at levels not seen since 1916. I will restore our Navy to the size needed to fulfill our missions by building 15 ships per year, including three submarines. I will implement effective missile defenses to protect against threats. And on this, there will be no flexibility with Vladimir Putin. And I will call on our NATO allies to keep the greatest military alliance in history strong by honoring their commitment to each devote 2 percent of their GDP to security spending. Today, only 3 of the 28 NATO nations meet this benchmark.

I will make further reforms to our foreign assistance to create incentives for good governance, free enterprise, and greater trade, in the Middle East and beyond. I will organize all assistance efforts in the greater Middle East under one official with responsibility and accountability to prioritize efforts and produce results. I will rally our friends and allies to match our generosity with theirs. And I will make it clear to the recipients of our aid that, in return for our material support, they must meet the responsibilities of every decent modern government—to respect the rights of all of their citizens, including women and minorities… to ensure space for civil society, a free media, political parties, and an independent judiciary… and to abide by their international commitments to protect our diplomats and our property.

I will champion free trade and restore it as a critical element of our strategy, both in the Middle East and across the world. The President has not signed one new free trade agreement in the past four years. I will reverse that failure. I will work with nations around the world that are committed to the principles of free enterprise, expanding existing relationships and establishing new ones.

I will support friends across the Middle East who share our values, but need help defending them and their sovereignty against our common enemies.

In Libya, I will support the Libyan people’s efforts to forge a lasting government that represents all of them, and I will vigorously pursue the terrorists who attacked our consulate in Benghazi and killed Americans.

In Egypt, I will use our influence—including clear conditions on our aid—to urge the new government to represent all Egyptians, to build democratic institutions, and to maintain its peace treaty with Israel. And we must persuade our friends and allies to place similar stipulations on their aid.

In Syria, I will work with our partners to identify and organize those members of the opposition who share our values and ensure they obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad’s tanks, helicopters, and fighter jets. Iran is sending arms to Assad because they know his downfall would be a strategic defeat for them. We should be working no less vigorously with our international partners to support the many Syrians who would deliver that defeat to Iran—rather than sitting on the sidelines. It is essential that we develop influence with those forces in Syria that will one day lead a country that sits at the heart of the Middle East.

And in Afghanistan, I will pursue a real and successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014. President Obama would have you believe that anyone who disagrees with his decisions in Afghanistan is arguing for endless war. But the route to more war – and to potential attacks here at home – is a politically timed retreat that abandons the Afghan people to the same extremists who ravaged their country and used it to launch the attacks of 9/11. I will evaluate conditions on the ground and weigh the best advice of our military commanders. And I will affirm that my duty is not to my political prospects, but to the security of the nation.

Finally, I will recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel. On this vital issue, the President has failed, and what should be a negotiation process has devolved into a series of heated disputes at the United Nations. 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.

There is a longing for American leadership in the Middle East—and it is not unique to that region. It is broadly felt by America’s friends and allies in other parts of the world as well— in Europe, where Putin’s Russia casts a long shadow over young democracies, and where our oldest allies have been told we are “pivoting” away from them … in Asia and across the Pacific, where China’s recent assertiveness is sending chills through the region … and here in our own hemisphere, where our neighbors in Latin America want to resist the failed ideology of Hugo Chavez and the Castro brothers and deepen ties with the United States on trade, energy, and security. But in all of these places, just as in the Middle East, the question is asked: “Where does America stand?”

I know many Americans are asking a different question: “Why us?” I know many Americans are asking whether our country today—with our ailing economy, and our massive debt, and after 11 years at war—is still capable of leading.

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. America’s security and the cause of freedom cannot afford four more years like the last four years. I am running for President because 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.

Our friends and allies across the globe do not want less American leadership. They want more—more of our moral support, more of our security cooperation, more of our trade, and more of our assistance in building free societies and thriving economies. So many people across the world still look to America as the best hope of humankind. So many people still have faith in America. We must show them that we still have faith in ourselves—that we have the will and the wisdom to revive our stagnant economy, to roll back our unsustainable debt, to reform our government, to reverse the catastrophic cuts now threatening our national defense, to renew the sources of our great power, and to lead the course of human events.

Sir Winston Churchill once said of George Marshall: “He … always fought victoriously against defeatism, discouragement, and disillusion.” That is the role our friends want America to play again. And it is the role we must play.

The 21st century can and must be an American century. It began with terror, war, and economic calamity. It is our duty to steer it onto the path of freedom, peace, and prosperity.

The torch America carries is one of decency and hope. It is not America’s torch alone. But it is America’s duty – and honor – to hold it high enough that all the world can see its light.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

Filed under: 2012 • Foreign Policy • Mitt Romney
soundoff (66 Responses)
  1. Ray

    tough talk for a draft dodger

    October 8, 2012 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  2. PaulCat

    Why do we have to spend money we do not have in order to police the world? Another thing, why should we lose our men and women at war while their men and women are safe at home?

    October 8, 2012 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  3. George

    Remember how in that hidden video Romney said that "Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace" followed by "So what you do is, you say, you move things along the best way you can. You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem....and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it."

    Just saying...

    October 8, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  4. pcalif

    Romney looks old and is old. He puts you in a coma if you watch long enough. His foreign policy speech was nothing more than a high school essay. Gibberish and nothing of substance. Basically, just soft, corny baloney. Won' work in the real world.

    October 8, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  5. Peace

    I didn't hear any clarification how he will do it differently. He has the same policies which are being carried now at the moment in the Mid-East.

    October 8, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  6. Tree

    This cat wants WAR.......how can we trust some one whom change their mind every day. Is the the kind of person we want in the White House when he gets that 3 am call and want to push the RED than after the damage is done he change his mind.
    This cat have serious problems and we dont need someone in the office that change his tone every time. You never know what you going to get with this cat. He loves WAR, he protested FOR the VN WAR back in the 60's so that my friends tell you something about him. If him and his 5 sons dont have to be on front line than its okay. My friends this election goes deeper than what you think. Please put on your thinkers caps . Don't let Romney get away with this madness.

    October 8, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  7. rs

    So what do you recommend, Mr. Romney- all I see here are empty words. "Leading" is pretty ambiguous- especially for a man whose party refuses to "lead" here at home. Remember- your party bankrupted America- real change in the rest of the world will not be affected by lavish foreign aid- nor can we afford more disasterous wars- wars you refused to fight in, nor allow your 5 sons to support.

    October 8, 2012 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  8. sonny chapman

    Insanity: Keep repeating the same mistakes but expect a different result.

    October 8, 2012 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  9. Morning1Su

    Mitt Romney is making me sick. Why do you think we have trillions of dollars in debt? Because we had two unfunded wars, which Afganstan and Iraq do not appreciate the sacrifices made with our blood and money. Mitt talks tough, but would not put his family in harms way. Please get this guy our of our American sight. Mitt would put us another war.

    October 8, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  10. Cathy

    Listening to Romney's foreign policy scares the hell out of me. I'm Canadian,but WHEN he sends you into war we will be dragged along to support the idiot. This man has no clue! Just like Rove and his cronies, he's a war monger waiting to give the order. God help the U.S.A.. Wake up people, this man wants WAR! It's good for the economy.That is his plan for putting 12 million back to work. How many will survive?

    October 8, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  11. Todd Toombs

    Wow. Now, that sounds like a President! Romney-Ryan 2012

    October 8, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  12. Steve in CT

    The people of the Middle East want us out of there, and now. Who is Romney trying to kid? How many of his sons are going to serve?

    October 8, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    Still in the last Republican wars..Iraq and Afghanistan...an Dumney is looking for another WAR to start..and HE yells about the Deficit? The two on-going wars put on credit cards? What is wrong with people that they even allow this man loose? Such a corrupt party as the Republicans...got so much power.....HOW?

    October 8, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  14. Laverne

    Betcha not a one of Mitt Romney's pretty boys will serve in the military including the draft dodger himself who opted to go to France instead of fighting for this country he says he loves so much. Mitt Romney is about as patriotic as his money that lies in the Cayman Islands and Switzerland. I do understand he must be on cloud nine right about now coming out of the debate lastweek, but he must know also that it probably won't be happening again! He has gotten a few national security briefings over the past couple of weeks and now he is an expert. If his little foreign policy advisers were not writing this scripts on foreign policy it would go a little like this "Russia is our number one enemy" and "I will do whatever Netanyahu tells me to do"!!!

    October 8, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  15. rs

    Yeah, Todd- a really BAD President.

    October 8, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  16. Thomas

    Mitt Romney,
    I join you in praying for the many VMI graduates and all Americans who are now serving in harm’s way. May God bless all who serve, and all who have served.

    On July 4, 2007, the Romney campaign officially launched the "Mitt Mobile, A Five Brothers Bus", referring to Romney's five sons and his official campaign blog, Five Brothers. When asked why his sons were not fighting in Iraq, Romney replied that his sons were supporting America by riding from town to town in the "Five Brothers Bus," saying "One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected.

    Sounds like Mitt would be at home in India with the cast system !

    October 8, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  17. ST

    Bad news for Romney: You have completely lost Ron Paul voters. They are not interested at all to hear this kind of talk.

    October 8, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  18. Kennedy Danga

    He has five (5) boys, non of the has contributed to American Military.

    October 8, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  19. bob

    When a politician says he wants to 'shape' the middle east, we should run like heck. Bush wanted to shape Iraq and look where that got us. All of the things he talks about is what Obama is already doing, but when he does it, it's called 'leading from behind.' But you got to get that catch phrase out there for the low information voter to repeat.

    October 8, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  20. Natalie

    Hey Mittens, how do we pay for the next war when we didn't have a plan to pay for the last two? Answer anyone. Just keep borrowing from China, Mittens? What is wrong with the fools who'd vote for this flip-flopping weasel? They don't learn from history, that's for dang sure!

    October 8, 2012 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  21. CanadaONE

    The world is a little more COMPLICATED than that Romney – how stupid can you get?

    If Amercia thinks he really has a plan all of American allies will distance themselves from Romney and you will go at it alone

    Scary – not another 911??

    October 8, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  22. The Halls For Obama

    Todd Toombs, will go with President Romney and his 5 son

    October 8, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  23. Rick 7809

    Sounds like a return to the policies of "W". We all know that the middle east loved him. Romney will start a war by the end of his second month in office.

    October 8, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  24. sonny chapman

    As a Dem., I want to thank Mitt for bringing back a name Americans had better not ever forget: GEORGE W. BUSH.

    October 8, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  25. Warren

    Romney so full of it.... All He wants is to push the WAR Button... So Far he wants war in Iran, Syria, Egypt, Aferca.... Starting wars makes money for Romney & his friends.! Who cares if the middle class & poor kids get put in harms way? Their children will be exempt! Romney will say anything to get elected. Only clear loser of the debate was the American People. You can not debate when one party changes everything he was running on for 18 months at the time of debate!

    October 8, 2012 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
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