The hawk wing of Obama’s team — Leon Panetta, Hillary Clinton and David Petraeus — is long gone. They all lost the fight to get Obama to intercede on behalf of the Syrian rebels last year. But now their replacements are facing the harsh reality that sometimes America has little choice but to use its military.

Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, both shaped in part by their service in Vietnam and their later regrets about voting for the Iraq War, set a high bar for the use of force. “I think we need to be cautious with our power,” Hagel said at his confirmation hearing in which he spoke of having seen the “horror of war.”

The shift in personnel mirrored the president’s own reluctance to engage in more wars. And it seemed to be working — until Assad forced his hand.

The interventionists, National Security Adviser Susan Rice and U.N. Rep. Samantha Power, are liberals known for favoring military force as a means for stopping genocide. They had been largely quiet on Syria until Monday night, when both women Tweeted about an impending American response.

“We’re reviewing response options & consulting w/allies & partners in NY & around the world,” Power wrote. “Widespread outrage & desire for accountability.”