updated 4/28/2011 9:59:02 AM ET 2011-04-28T13:59:02

Likely Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is faulting President Barack Obama for a foreign policy in which he says the United States is shirking its responsibility to fight "militant socialism."

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In prepared remarks for a speech on Thursday, the former Pennsylvania senator said U.S. policy under Obama is "premised on vague notions of hope and change that has scrambled America's foreign policy relationships — both with our allies and our enemies."

"From acquiescence to China's saber rattling in the South China Sea to impotence in the face of Venezuela's use of petro-dollars to expand his Bolivarian revolution in our hemisphere, President Obama has at best refused to defend our — and democracy's — interests," Santorum said.

Santorum says the United States has a moral authority to fight "militant socialism." He provided excerpts from the speech in advance to The Associated Press, later changing a reference to "godless socialism" to "militant socialism" without explanation.

He also criticized Obama's handling of Libya, where U.S. forces initially led the military intervention to protect civilians. The U.S. is now supporting a NATO-led mission.

"As for Libya: It is a morass," Santorum said. "If we were going to support the rebel forces we should have acted swiftly in the early days of Benghazi's uprising by recognizing and arming the rebels and immediately enforcing a no-fly zone. Decisive action against (Libyan leader Moammar) Gadhafi would have been the end of him."

Those comments put him at odds with many Republicans in Congress who argued that Obama should have waited before dispatching U.S. forces and question the notion of arming the rebels.

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Santorum, who lost a bruising re-election bid in 2006, is laying the groundwork for a presidential bid. He is a frequent visitor to the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and has built up a staff. He filed initial federal elections papers and is gauging whether to move ahead with a White House bid.

Santorum also criticized Obama's handling of the 2009 uprisings in Iran.

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"Rather than supporting the dissidents there — dissidents asking for our help — the president continued his policy of engaging and effectively supporting the mullahcracy," Santorum said. "The result? The dissidents were brutally crushed."

Santorum's excerpts did not provide any details on what steps he would have taken to support the dissidents.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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