Let me paraphrase the 10 paragraphs:
¶1 — Obama is having trouble selling his plan to attack Syria.
¶2 — We're right to worry that the supposedly narrow attack will turn into another big war.
¶3 — The Pentagon is planning for broader war.
¶4 — The administration has asked the Pentagon to come up with more targets — more than the 50+ targets we already have.
¶5 — Obama has been vague about what these additional targets are (but they can't be the actual chemical stockpiles, because bombing them would unloose the poison).
¶6 — Talk of launching missiles from offshore has given way to reports of sending in bombers.
¶7 — Some members of Congress want to hem Obama in but McCain openly advocates taking the side of the rebels and ousting Assad.
¶8 — Obama is supposed to be the guy that gets us out of wars, and he owes us more assurance that what is planning really is narrow.
¶9 — Putin is staring Obama down.
¶10 — The whole group of foreign leaders gave Obama the cold shoulder.
¶8 is the key paragraph. It's the one with the quote I put in the post title. It's the one where the editors get as close as they are willing to answering the question posed in the headline: "Can Mr. Obama Avoid Mission Creep?" I think their secret answer is "no," but they don't want to say that. Instead, they lay out their worries and challenge him to explain how he's going to avoid a larger war. They say "the public deserves to understand more fully what 'limited' military action actually means" as if maybe it's our comprehension problem or his failure to sufficiently elaborate.
The first paragraph references Obama's planned speech on Tuesday, so maybe the editors thought, let's give him a chance to be specific about these things. Maybe the great speech-maker can explain it all next week. What's strange — if they want to talk about strange — is that Obama hasn't delivered the big explanatory speech yet. The simplest explanation is that he can't explain, and the answer to the question "Can Mr. Obama Avoid Mission Creep?" is just: no.
"Mission creep" sounds — to me, anyway — like a term from the Nixon era. (There was CREEP.) But in fact, at least according to Wikipedia's "mission creep" article, the term goes back to Somalia:
The first two articles to use the term in the Washington Post were both by columnist Jim Hoagland ("Prepared for Non-Combat", April 15, 1993 and Beware 'mission creep' In Somalia, July 20, 1993). The New York Times used the term for the first time in an article by correspondent John H. Cushman, Jr. written after the October 4, 1993 firefight in the capital of Somalia, Mogadishu, in which 18 American military personnel were killed.Restore Hope.
The U.S. and later UN Mission in Somalia (Restore Hope) would seem to be the classic example of mission creep....
Whatever makes you happy... whatever you want....