With the obligatory spike of the Bin Laden football.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (AFP) — US President Barack Obama offered a direct rebuttal Wednesday of Mitt Romney’s foreign policy critique, saying his leadership had forged a “different world” in just four years.

In a sweeping survey of his diplomatic worldview, Obama implicitly rejected claims he is wedded to national decline, and said he had restored US values and alliances and paved the way to a new “American Century.”

In parts, the address was a point-by-point rebuttal of a foreign policy speech given by his Republican election foe Romney in October, and previewed likely clashes between the two men at presidential debates later this year.

“Four years ago, you arrived here at a time of great challenge for our nation,” Obama told Air Force cadets, citing a time span that also coincides with much his term in office.

“Our forces were engaged in two wars. Al-Qaeda, which had attacked us on 9/11, was entrenched in their safe-havens.

“Many of our alliances were strained, and our standing in the world had suffered,” he said, offering a disdainful view of the legacy bequeathed by Republican former president George W. Bush.

“Our economy was in the worst recession since the Great Depression. Around the world and here at home, many questioned whether the United States still had the capacity for global leadership.”

“Today, you step forward into a different world,” Obama said, before implicitly giving his own policies credit for changing perceptions of American leadership and his nation’s position in the world.

“You are the first class in nine years that will graduate into a world where there are no Americans fighting in Iraq,” said Obama, who fulfilled a promise to get all US forces home last year.

Referencing the killing of Osama bin Laden, Obama claimed to have put Al-Qaeda on the path to defeat and to have offered a clear exit from Afghanistan.

The fact that the president chose to deliver the survey of US foreign policy at graduation ceremonies at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs could open him to charges of politicizing the armed forces he leads.