The U.S. has acted appropriately in Iraq in recent weeks, providing supplies and air support for those fighting to keep an Islamic extremist group from overrunning the country.
That said, broadening U.S. intervention in a country that American forces just left in 2011 raises valid questions about the limits of the U.S. military involvement in Iraq.
The barbaric killing of journalist James Foley, said to be in retaliation for these airstrikes, and the uptick in U.S. bombing action since then only make the question of our intervention more urgent.
Does this nation have an open-ended commitment to send war planes and other support in future offensives against the Islamic state?
War-weary Americans deserve a firmer answer to that question than they have gotten from President Obama.
To be sure, these terrorists were moving at alarming speed through Iraq, and neither the Iraqi government nor the Kurds seemed able to stop them.
An estimated 1.5 million people in Iraq have been displaced by the radicals. Religious minority Yazidis, Christians and U.S. personnel in Iraq were imperiled.
The question as we see it isn't about the legitimacy of U.S. action thus far. It's about the limits on future U.S. engagement.
The president said in an address on Iraq last week that he was cautious about "mission creep" and the best way to guard against it would be to have a credible government in Iraq.
He indicated the ruling Shiite majority government would do well to be more inclusive, conducting itself in ways acceptable to Sunnis and other Iraqi minorities.
We think the U.S. goal should be more focused on its original purpose: saving the minorities from persecution by the terror group. It shouldn't be about aiding the Kurds and Baghdad in their efforts to re-conquer territory they lost to the Islamic State. Though, to be fair, it isn't always easy to separate the two.
Obama may insist he won't allow mission creep, but in a way he already has, with the use of air power to help retake the Mosul Dam, which the president spoke of last week.
So, what is the strategy in Iraq? Americans deserve a clearer answer to that important question.
Copyright Denver Post. Distributed by the Associated Press.