Of course, this will only serve to increase the desire of Everyday Americans to bomb the hell out of the entire middle east. I know that's what the jihadis want, but they don't understand. If they get their wish, we won't be using 155 mm mortar shells. Our bombs will leave the rubble glowing in the dark - along with the charred bones of Islam itself.
I think this is part of a fundamental misunderstanding that Islamist have about American goals. The Islamist misunderstood the message of Mogadishu for the same reasons. The US sent soldiers into Somalia because we were horrified to hear stories about people who couldn't eat because the fields were mined by warlords. We went there to try to establish order so that all the ordinary people caught in the middle could be safe again. Part of why pulled out after the "Black Hawk Down" incident is that in that instance the ordinary people we were there to defend sided, or at least appeared to side, with the warlords. After that there was simply no will to continue. If they didn't want our help, why should we keep risking the lives of our military?
But the Islamists never believed we were there to help the ordinary Somali; instead they really believed that we were in Somalia to start building an Empire. Consequently, they saw our pull out as a major military defeat of the "Great Satan".
In the current war we invaded Iraq and Afghanistan because we believed our own security was at risk. The only two options a lot of us see to dealing with this threat are a) to go in and rip out the old regimes and replace them with modern free societies, or b) apply massive fire power in order to eliminate the threat. The problem with options b is that lots of innocent people would be killed in the process. Our societ is rather adverse to the idea of killing innocent civilians so we went for option a. We did this even though it meant that a lot more of our soldiers and marines would probably die.
The Islamists don't really understand why we're there. They still think that we're there as part of some grand empire building scheme. The believe that if they push us hard enough we'll increase the firepower and lots of Arabs who are currently on our side or ambivalent about the whole thing will suddenly go over to their side. At that point they believe they can lead a mighty holy uprising and throw us out.
This way of looking at things fails to acknowledge that the only reason we haven't completely leveled most of the middle east is that we want to protect civilian lives. If the civilians actually did side against us that concern would go away. However, this time we aren't fighting to protect people from warlords; we're fighting to protect ourselves from Islamist terrorists. In Somalia when we decided the civilians were against us we could simply pull out. This time we don't have this option. We'd have to increase the fire power.
As Quick notes, the Islamist think that's what they want. They only think that because they don't really understand what it would mean for the full might of the American military, unrestrained by concerns of civilian deaths, being brought to bear on them indeed.
I don't think we'd ever actually resort to nukes unless a major nuclear, chemical, or biological attack had actually been launched on us. But I think it's certain that the more we hear about atrocities such as the beheading of hostages, the more likely we are to simply lose control.
I hate war. I supported, and still support, the invasion of Iraq but only because I believed it absolutely necessary. If I had not believed our military had the ability and control to largely limit civilian deaths, however, I might have taken a far different stand. The idea of unneeded civilian deaths is horrific to me. Yet even I, when I hear about the beheadings, find that my first response to these atrocities is, "Nuke 'em." If in my unguarded moments I'm thinking this way, then I fear a large part of our society is having far more dangerous tendencies.
In our country right now it's entirely possible that more active rage is being directed against our President than is actually being directed against the Islamist terrorists. If they actually think they want to see what would happen if the full rage and might of America was directed at them, they are sorely mistaken.
Goodness knows the very thought scares the daylights out of me.
Update: Americans aren't the only ones the Islamists risk tipping further than they really want them to go. Following the murder of a South Korean hostage, apparently even many South Koreans who previously opposed the war are now clamoring for action. (Link via Judicious Assinity.)