- - Thursday, August 21, 2014

There can be only one response to the barbaric beheading of American journalist James Foley by Islamic State terrorists. We must hunt them down and kill them.

President Obama said as much in his brief remarks in the wake of the terrorists’ grisly video that showed Foley’s execution by a masked jihadist who spoke with a British accent and is thought to be a British citizen.

The United States will “do what we must to protect our people,” Mr. Obama said Wednesday. “We will be vigilant and we will be relentless” in bringing them to justice.

No sooner had the president condemned the killing of the photojournalist than the administration revealed that Special Operations commandos had unsuccessfully tried to rescue him along with several other Americans earlier this summer in a high-risk ground operation in Syria.

Unfortunately, it turned out the captors and their captives had left the site. But U.S. officials who were authorized by the White House to discuss the mission told reporters that “a good number” of the remaining terrorists were gunned down in an attack that was described as a “fierce firefight.”

In its video, the Islamic State said Foley’s killing was in direct response to the U.S. airstrikes on their forces that have killed countless terrorists and driven them back from their assault across northern Iraq.

The U.S. air war against the Islamic State’s armies has, if anything, been escalated, with 14 more airstrikes against terrorist forces on Wednesday. Since Aug. 8, there have been at least 84 major attacks by U.S. warplanes.

Foley’s killing, and the terrorists’ threats to kill its other captives if U.S. bombings continue, has escalated the war against terrorism and moved it to center stage again in the national security arena — especially among U.S. allies who have been reluctant to get involved.

The secret special forces rescue operation has for the first time moved U.S. military operations, however briefly, into Syria, after Mr. Obama’s long resistance against getting involved in that country’s civil war.

As for Mr. Obama’s promise to withdraw completely from the Iraq war and bring all of our troops home, the stepped-up terrorist offensive there has forced him to step away from that policy, at least for now.

While the Islamic State armies have been seizing more and more territory over the past year, the president and his advisers stubbornly resisted calls for a more aggressive response to the terrorists’ offensives across much of the Middle East.

But as the crisis worsened in Iraq, Mr. Obama grudgingly began to change course, though at first insisting that his decision to send additional forces into Iraq to protect U.S. personnel in our embassy and consulate there was a very limited and temporary one.

However, as the insurgents intensified their offensive and their armies were on the brink of attacking Baghdad and threatened to blow up the Mosul Dam, endangering U.S. personnel in the area, he’s been slowly, grudgingly sending in more troops.

Administration officials, citing an urgent request from the State Department, said that more troops may be sent in, possibly another 300 or so, to strengthen U.S. Embassy security in Baghdad.

That would increase the number of ground troops in Iraq by well over 1,000 and counting.

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