EDGARTOWN, Mass. -- When President Obama returns to the White House Sunday after his summer vacation, he will be dealing with a threat his defense secretary says is "beyond anything we've seen" - a threat that's been on vivid display while the president's been away.
The threat Chuck Hagel was referring to is the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the terror network also known as ISIS.
In the two weeks since Mr. Obama started his vacation, U.S. drones and fighter jets have conducted at least 94 airstrikes in northern Iraq, and this week ISIS claimed responsibility for the beheading of American photojournalist James Foley and promised that other westerners they're holding captive are next.
The president has both a war-weary public and a reluctant Congress to deal with regarding his approach to ISIS, and he knows it won't be easy. The White House strategy now is to first contain and then destroy ISIS. That itself is a big shift.
The president said Monday his goal was merely to contain ISIS. Republicans accused the president of underestimating this threat all along, and that could complicate the White House push for funding and legal authorization if the president decides to move this air war into Syria, which is now under serious consideration.
Congress has gone along with the air war in Iraq so far because U.S. personnel, military and diplomatic, are in peril. In Syria, the case isn't nearly so clear-cut.
The president faced a lot of criticism this week for staying on vacation. The president says he needs to relax and has remained focused on all of these global hot spots as well as the nation's issues.
The president will return to Washington facing not only the ISIS threat but the harsh reality of the first act of ISIS terrorism against the U.S. in the videotaped beheading of Foley. The White House is now bracing for what it concedes will be a long-running military and propaganda campaign against ISIS.