Manchin Plan Better Than War
Members of Congress should join Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in giving peace a chance this week. It appears they have a genuine opportunity to do so.
Manchin decided last week to vote against President Barack Obama’s request for authorization to launch a military strike against Syria, in retaliation for that country’s use of chemical weapons against its own people. At the time, the Mountain State senator said he did not believe other options had been exhausted.
But Manchin did more than complain. He offered an alternative – and by Monday, there were indications the Syrian government might go along with it.
Manchin and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., have introduced a resolution spelling out a diplomatic alternative to an attack on Syria. It calls for the Syrian government to renounce use of chemical weapons by signing the international Chemical Weapons Convention within 45 days. Nearly 200 countries already are signatories to the CWC. In the process of joining, Syria would be required to destroy chemical weapons stockpiles and facilities.
Also in the Manchin-Heitkamp resolution are provisions for the Obama administration to explore other diplomatic options and to prepare a “comprehensive, long-term strategy for Syria.”
By Monday, Syrian officials were signaling the idea might be acceptable.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow would urge Syria to scrap its chemical weapons. Then, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told reporters his country welcomed the Russian proposal.
Initially, Obama seemed cool to the idea. He had planned a media blitz for Monday evening, along with briefings for members of Congress.
Clearly, Obama should back away from his call for a military strike against Syria, to allow time for the diplomatic option to work.
One way to prod him in that direction would be for other lawmakers to join Manchin and the handful of senators who have said they will vote against using force in Syria.
By Monday afternoon, neither Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., nor Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, had taken public positions on whether they would support an attack on Syria. All three – and other thoughtful senators – should join Manchin and support a diplomatic initiative against Syria.