Manchin Calls For His Own Syrian Option

WHEELING – Sen. Joe Manchin has offered his own option as an alternative to missile strikes on Syria in response to allegations that the nation used chemical weapons against its citizens.

Manchin, D-W.Va., proposed a Senate joint resolution calling for Syria to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, which prohibits the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention and use of chemical weapons. If the government of Syria does not sign and comply with the convention within 45 days after the date it is adopted by Congress, “all elements of national power will be considered by the United States Government,” states the resolution introduced by Manchin and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.

The measure also gives President Barack Obama 45 days to submit to Congress a long-term strategy for Syria “while concurrently using all appropriate diplomatic tools to develop and secure commitments from the international community,” according to its language.

“Being a ‘super-power’ means more than just using super-military might,” Manchin said. “It means super-diplomacy, it means super-humanitarian aid and super-restraint. All that goes with that title.

“After a decade of war, trillions of dollars spent, and many thousands of lives lost, I don’t think we’ve changed the direction of that area of the world – nor do I believe we’re going to change the direction,” he added. “If money or military might would have done it, after 12 years and almost $2 trillion we would have seen a change. We haven’t.”

The president’s report to Congress would have to contain a statement of America’s strategic goals in Syria, as well as specific objectives, benchmarks to be accomplished and a desired end date.

Specifics about the U.S. policy toward Syria also would have to be included.

Manchin said he attended briefings on Syria last week as a member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee and also sat in on those of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and all of the Obama administration’s classified briefings.

While Manchin called the Syria’s reported use of chemical weapons against its people “barbaric,” he opposes military strikes there and believes the U.S. should not act to help take out the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Manchin fears al-Qaida forces would instead rise to power in the country if the current government is overthrown.

“I have to ask, why are we the only ones going it alone?” Manchin said. “Why has it risen to the level that we should be the one acting?

“If the Arab League is not willing to go in and help their people and take the lead – if the rest of the international community is not willing to come to their aid for different reasons – why should we be forced with a vote that would have us going it alone?”

The other question to ask is whether Syria presents an imminent threat to the American people, Manchin added.

“I do not believe there is an imminent threat to America, and I do not believe a military strike is the right course of action at this time,” he said. “We have to give diplomacy time to work. … We don’t have a timetable. … We can do damage at any time without telegraphing it.”