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Administration officials, while not using the word “war,” seem to have made the case for combat by painting the Islamic State as one of the most serious threats the nation has ever seen.

“ISIL poses a direct and significant threat to us and to Iraqi and Syrian civilians in the region and potentially to us here at home,” Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said Wednesday.

“They have aspirations to hit Western targets. So while they pose certainly a regional threat inside Iraq and to the region, we also know that they have aspirations of going after Western targets, including potentially American targets,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby told MSNBC on Wednesday.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden have changed their language since the brutal slayings of Mr. Foley and Mr. Sotloff and the ominous threat of more to come.

The president last week said he did not have a strategy for dealing with the Islamist group, but Mr. Biden hours later vowed justice for the killers.

“We take care of those who are grieving. And when that’s finished, they should know we will follow them to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice,” he said in a New Hampshire speech.

Such rhetoric is of little use to those who believe the administration must launch strikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria and give greater military support to Iraqi and Kurdish fighters battling the terrorist group on the ground.
Some lawmakers are even suggesting that British Prime Minister David Cameron has become more effective than the U.S. president in leading the charge against the Islamic State.

“Are we going to contain ISIS or are we going to crush ISIS? And the president has not answered that. I think he’s so hesitant to get involved with something,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Illinois Republican. “He’s so hesitant to exercise American leadership, that you see somebody like Prime Minister David Cameron out exercising that kind of strength of leadership that I’m glad he’s doing, but our president should be doing as well.”

Mr. Cameron spoke at length this week about the threat posed by the Islamic State and announced measures designed to limit the fighters’ ability to enter Britain.

Mr. Cameron met with Mr. Obama Wednesday evening ahead of Thursday’s NATO summit in Wales.