Do all to avoid a strike in Syria

Perhaps the best thing for members of Congress and President Barack Obama’s administration to do about Syria would be for everyone to take a deep breath, step away from the microphones and think about the situation for a day or two.

Far too much shooting from the hip has occurred during the past week or so. Some absurd things have been said by people who should know better.

A solid framework for resolving what could turn quickly into a crisis has been offered – and seemingly ignored by many in Washington. Perhaps that is because it came from two senators from small, politically weak states: West Virginia and North Dakota.

Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., suggested a way out of the impasse last week. The Senate resolution they propose in essence would give Syria 45 days to get rid of its chemical weapons and production facilities. During that period, the Obama administration would be required to devise a long-term strategy for dealing with Syria.

But very little attention seems to have been given to the Manchin-Heitkamp plan. After it was suggested, Russian officials said Syria might be willing to scrap its chemical weapons. Syria’s foreign minister agreed.

After that, a bipartisan group of eight senators suggested the United Nations be asked to remove Syria’s chemical weapons. If Syrian leaders refuse, the senators would authorize use of military force against the regime. In all likelihood, the Manchin-Heitkamp proposal will be shuffled aside by the eight powerful senators involved with the alternative plan.

That’s fine. No one should care who gets credit for a plan that scraps Syria’s chemical weapons without the U.S. going to war.

Again, however, some in Washington have begun talking dangerous nonsense about the situation.

Testifying before a House of Representatives committee, Secretary of State John Kerry insisted that even if the U.S. uses force against Syria, there is no possibility of deeper entanglement. “I don’t see the slippery slope,” he insisted.

Even worse, a few lawmakers have suggested that if Congress refuses to give Obama approval for a military strike against Syria, he may want to consider ordering one on his own authority.

Fortunately, it appears most members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, oppose a punitive, unilateral military strike against Syria. Here’s hoping they keep their wits about them and refuse to allow less thoughtful officials, both on Capitol Hill and in the Obama administration, to drag the U.S. into war.