Before President Obama's speech on his plans to intervene against ISIS, he met with visitors in the White House. According to Peter Baker's account in The New York Times, he mused that “it would have been fascinating" to be in Washington, D.C., prior to the Iraq War in 2003, "to see the momentum and how it builds."
"In his own way, Mr. Obama said, he had seen something similar," Baker's story continues, "a virtual fever rising in Washington, pressuring him to send the armed forces after the Sunni radicals who had swept through Iraq and beheaded American journalists. He had told his staff, he said, not to evaluate their own policy based on external momentum. He would not rush to war. He would be deliberate."
There are hawkish groups in Washington that exert pressure in favor of intervention regardless of the president. It is nevertheless frustrating to see Obama casting himself as a passive agent of external momentum, not only because he could be a decisive voice against intervention if that's what he wanted, but because his own actions contributed greatly to the interventionist atmosphere.
It's no fluke that momentum would build behind war.
What else did Obama expect when he staffed his administration with hawkish Iraq War proponents? Any attempt to measure the momentum for war must include Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel calling ISIS "beyond anything we've ever seen," heated rhetoric from Secretary of State John Kerry, and Vice President Joe Biden vowing that the United States will follow ISIS "to the gates of hell." Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also been a prominent hawk.