Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON - 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 believed to be a British citizen.

The United States will "do what we must to protect our people," 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 murder 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.

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

Foley's murder, 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 Obama's long resistance against getting involved in that country's civil war.

As for 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.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.