Hard as it is to believe in this time of record pandemic deaths, insurrection, and an unprecedented encore impeachment, Joe Biden is now officially at the helm of the U.S. war machine. He is, in other words, the fourth president to oversee America's unending and unsuccessful post-9/11 military campaigns. In terms of active U.S. combat, that's only happened once before, in the Philippines, America's second-longest (if often forgotten) overseas combat campaign.
Yet that conflict was limited to a single Pacific archipelago. Biden inherits a global war — and burgeoning new Cold War — spanning four continents and a military mired in active operations in dozens of countries, combat in some 14 of them, and bombing in at least seven. That sort of scope has been standard fare for American presidents for almost two decades now. Still, while this country's post-9/11 war presidents have more in common than their partisan divisions might suggest, distinctions do matter, especially at a time when the White House almost unilaterally drives foreign policy.