But a team of Marines and Special Forces that helicoptered in has reported back that, with a corridor off the mountain opened up by U.S. air strikes, the humanitarian crisis is over. The few thousand who remain can be airdropped food and water. The rest can be brought out.
The emergency over, President Obama should think long and hard about launching a new air war in Iraq or Syria. For Iraq War III holds the promise of becoming another Middle East debacle, and perhaps the worst yet.
America would be entering this war utterly divided. We are not even agreed on who the enemies are. Hillary Clinton thinks we should be tougher on Iran and that Obama blundered by not aiding the Syrian rebels when they first rose up to overthrow President Bashar Assad.
Veteran diplomats Ryan Crocker, William Luers and Thomas Pickering argue that Assad is not the real enemy. The Islamic State is, and we should consider a ceasefire between the Free Syrian Army and Assad.
"It makes no sense for the West to support a war against Assad as well as a war against the Islamic State," they write, "Assad is evil but ... he is certainly the lesser evil."
Crocker-Luers-Pickering also argue that the crisis calls for the United States to accept the nuclear deal with Iran that was on the table in July and work with Tehran against ISIS. Iranians and Americans are already rushing weapons to the Kurds, who have sustained a string of defeats at the hands of the Islamic State.
"A new strategic relationship between the United States and Iran may seem impossible and risky," the diplomats write, "yet it is also necessary and in the interests of both. While an alliance is out of the question, mutually informed parallel action is necessary."
If we could work with the monster Stalin to defeat Hitler, is colluding with the Ayatollah beyond the pale?
Other arguments shout out against a new American war.
How could we win such a war without the U.S. ground troops Obama pledged never to send, and the American people do not want sent?
Air power may keep ISIS from overrunning Irbil and Baghdad, but carrier-based air cannot reconquer the vast territory the Islamic State has occupied in Iraq. Nor can it defeat ISIS in Syria.