The first signal came earlier this week, in the wake of the James Foley execution, when Joint Chiefs chairman Martin Dempsey said Islamic State militants could not be defeated without taking the fight to them in Syria. Now the White House is considering doing exactly that, according to reports in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, and pretty much every large media outlet. That could involve everything from boosting arms and training to rebels fighting the militants, to encouraging other groups such as Syrian Kurds to join the fight, to US airstrikes and special ops missions. One thing US officials insist they won't do is collaborate with the army of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, notes the Guardian, although defeating the Islamic State would clearly benefit him, too.
President Obama could theoretically order military action in Syria on his own under the rationale of protecting American citizens, reports the Washington Post, and he did just that earlier this summer in giving the green light to an unsuccessful rescue attempt for Foley. But the administration could also go to Congress to ask for a more formal authorization. One big drawback to airstrikes is that the US has no ground presence in Syria to direct them, notes the LA Times. Countering the push toward some kind of action is this assessment from an official of the group Win Without War: “We’ve seen this movie before and we know how it ends,” he says. “We play into their hands by giving them what they want, which is a battle with the West.”