Mitt Romney, the leading Republican presidential candidate, is calling for a century of American dominance in his first major foreign policy address, outlining plans to strengthen the U.S. military while rejecting multilateral institutions like the United Nations when necessary.
The former Massachusetts governor also condemns the isolationist policies supported by some conservative tea party members in a speech to be delivered Friday at The Citadel, an iconic military college in South Carolina. It comes as Romney has jumped back into the lead in national polling following Texas Gov. Rick Perry's disappointing performances in political debates.
The location of the speech, in the early primary voting state of South Carolina, is no coincidence.
Next year's election is likely to be dominated by domestic issues, especially the weak U.S. economic recovery from the Great Recession that has left millions of Americans without jobs. And while President Barack Obama may be vulnerable to criticism about the economy, he has considerably more foreign policy experience than Romney and most other Republicans in the 2012 election field.
Romney in Friday's speech speaks in broad terms about U.S. foreign policy but gives few specifics.
"This is America's moment. 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 moment has passed. That is utter nonsense," Romney says in prepared remarks obtained by The Associated Press.
Romney, who also ran for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, offers no clear direction for the war in Afghanistan, but says he would conduct a full review of the situation in his first 100 days in office to determine "the presence necessary to secure our gains and successfully complete our mission."
"This century must be an American century. In an American century, America has the strongest economy and the strongest military in the world," Romney says. "God did not create this country to be a nation of followers. America is not destined to be one of several equally balanced global powers. America must lead the world, or someone else will."
While Romney served as a Mormon missionary in France more than four decades ago, he has limited foreign policy experience. As he says in nearly every campaign stop, he has spent the majority of his life in the business world. But Romney has been critical of Obama's foreign policy, particularly the president's aggressive timeline to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
At a campaign stop in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on Thursday, Romney previewed some of the themes for Friday's speech. He called for 100,000 new troops, increased military spending and a larger Navy.
"You would think that the president and the people in Washington would recognize the importance of the United States military and the need not to shrink our military budget but strengthen it," Romney told veterans on the hangar deck of the World War II-era aircraft carrier USS Yorktown.
The former governor acknowledged waste in defense spending and "my life in the private sector taught me to go after waste and economize, and there is an opportunity to do that." But he said he wouldn't, as European nations have done, reduce defense to bolster social programs.
Romney also released the names of 22 advisers he will consult on foreign policy issues.
Romney calls for working with the United Nations when appropriate.
"But know this," he says. "While America should work with other nations, we always reserve the right to act alone to protect our vital national interests."