At a recent Heritage Foundation symposium on the Law of the Sea Treaty, one of the proponents was Rear Admiral William D. Baumgartner, the Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Coast Guard. After panelist Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy calmly and methodologically delineated the problems with the treaty, and how U.S. national security could be adversely affected, Baumgartner said he was not impressed. He said one of Gaffney’s complaints about the International Seabed Authority, a major component of the new international bureaucracy established by the treaty, “just doesn’t make any sense at all” and was not “rooted in reality.”
Gaffney had complained about the treaty, formally known as the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), creating a global tax mechanism. Under UNCLOS, now before the Senate, U.S. corporations would be required to pay taxes to an International Seabed Authority for the right to exploit ocean resources, including developing sources of energy for the American people. Baumgartner insisted that it was set up “to protect commercial property rights.”
Baumgartner, appearing in his military uniform with a chest full of medals, is an impressive figure. A Harvard Law School graduate, he served as Chief of the Office of Maritime and International Law at Coast Guard Headquarters and headed the U.S. delegation to the Legal Committee of the International Maritime Organization. But his performance at the Heritage event demonstrates why military officials should stick to military affairs. His position is that we need a global bureaucracy to safeguard the rights of U.S. companies to mine the ocean floor. He sounded like a socialist member of the pro-world government World Federalists. Whatever happened to the idea of having a strong U.S. Navy to safeguard U.S. interests? Gaffney noted that Baumgartner’s position seems to be that we have to rely on international law and treaties, not the U.S. Navy.
This is a critical point. The American Shipbuilding Association reports that the number of Navy ships has declined from 594 under President Reagan to 276 under President Bush. If present trends continue, it will continue declining to a pathetically small number of only 180 by 2024.
Perhaps the Admiral might want to spend his time lobbying for a bigger Navy and Coast Guard, rather than for a piece of paper with a U.N. stamp that seeks to transfer our wealth to the rest of the world.
However, echoing Baumgartner, another panelist, UNCLOS supporter John Norton Moore of the University of Virginia School of Law, insisted that the treaty would protect “property rights.” He said the payments to an international bureaucracy were “fees” and “costs” and were not socialistic. He said the U.S. could veto the transfer of this money to other countries. At the same time, he acknowledged that the funds could end up becoming “a significant increase” to the U.S. foreign aid budget “if it ever gets going.”
Fortunately, some key members of Congress recognize that a global taxation regime under the auspices of UNCLOS, in order to soak U.S. taxpayers and provide more foreign aid to the rest of the world, is not something we should ratify or welcome. House Republican Whip Roy Blunt offered an amendment on the House floor on June 21 ensuring that American taxpayer dollars aren’t funneled to the International Seabed Authority. Blunt’s amendment, included in the House appropriations bill for foreign operations and the State Department, passed by voice vote.
In a release, Blunt declared, “More than 25 years ago, President Reagan refused to commit this country to a treaty that would’ve weakened our sovereignty at home, and rendered American companies less competitive abroad?We need all the energy we can get, whenever and wherever we can get it. Submitting ourselves to an unelected, unaccountable international ocean bureaucracy when it comes to distributing what American companies rightfully mine doesn’t strike me as a good thing to do―25 years ago, today, tomorrow, or in the future.”
At the Heritage event, Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute used the question-and-answer period to make the point that UNCLOS “legitimizes a socialist entity as the best way to expand wealth for the world at a time when the World Bank and the IMF [International Monetary Fund] have totally rejected that.” He said ratification of the treaty would be foolish.
Gaffney agreed. UNCLOS creates a “world government socialist enterprise,” he noted.
Yet the Bush Administration is vigorously pushing the Senate to ratify the treaty creating this global socialist entity.
Not surprisingly, the major media are backing ratification. The bias is evident in stories in the New York Times and other papers about Russia claiming a huge part of the oil-rich North Pole. “In this battle for Arctic territory,” the Times reports, “the United States is on the sidelines for the moment, as conservatives in Congress delay ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which governs all claims.”
UNCLOS “governs all claims?” Since when did a U.N. bureaucracy acquire such power? And why should the U.S. acquiesce in this power grab?
The implication of the story, of course, is that the U.N.‘s international ocean bureaucracy should decide the fate of the North Pole―and other matters.
Indeed, while the U.N. is settling that, it could possibly entertain claims from those in Russia who want Alaska back.
Former Rep. Tom Campbell actually looked into rumors that there was “something amiss” with the U.S. side of the 1867 treaty by which Russia sold Alaska to the U.S. He found that the sale was legal but that the U.S. had failed to pay the $7.2 million purchase price on time. Campbell ascertained that the payment took place three months and 10 days late, and that the Russians were owed lost interest.
There is actually a point of view which holds that Russia had no right to sell the land, or the U.S. to buy it, and that the interests of Native Alaskans were ignored. “Native Alaskans never made treaties with Russia or the United States selling their lands, nor did Russia or the United States conquer all of Alaska militarily,” wrote Russel Lawrence Barsh in the study, “The International Legal Status of Native Alaska.”
Would Rear Admiral Baumgartner back U.N. resolution of this matter? That is the road we’re on if we follow his advice on UNCLOS.