"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," Romney said Monday in a foreign policy speech in Virginia. " 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.
Romney said it is the responsibility of the U.S. president to use the nation's 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 former Massachusetts governor said in his address at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington.
"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."
Romney called for more direct intervention in Syria and stiffer sanctions against Iran, as well as a more aggressive military stance in the Middle East in general.
"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," he said.
Romney said he will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran and to tighten the sanctions currently in place. "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."
At VMI, Romney said he will deepen cooperation with U.S. partners in the Persian Gulf.
"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.
Romney, however, said he is also committed 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," he said.
Romney said he will roll back Obama's military cuts.
"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."