Is the tide of public opinion running out on the Law of the Sea Treaty?
A brief notice appeared in last week’s “Washington Wire” column in The Wall Street Journal that proclaimed the conservatives have succeeded – for now – in preventing the Bush Administration from promoting ratification of the Treaty. It appears highly unlikely that the Senate will be able to debate and vote on this Treaty this year.
But we have not yet sent this Treaty down to a watery grave. There are six other committees that could hold hearings. In the words of a close friend, “The genie is out of the bottle on this one.”
There is an element within the Bush Administration that wants this Treaty ratified; they have the upper hand.
Another fact is that even if we stop the Bush Administration from backing this Treaty, a change in the White House or the Senate in this election or perhaps even the next one could quickly bring it back to life.
This thing refuses to die. Remember, this Treaty was essentially killed by Ronald Reagan only to be brought back from the dead over a decade later by Bill Clinton and here it is again.
That Americans need to know what we would be buying into by ratifying this Treaty became clear in testimony presented on it this week before the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, chaired by Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK). At that hearing Frank Gaffney, President of the Center for Security Policy, expressed significant reservations about the authority vested by the Treaty in the International Seabed Authority, a body that would essentially be independent of the UN Security Council.
He warned, “Unlike other, far less powerful UN entities…the International Seabed Authority will operate without the benefit of what amounts to ‘adult supervision’ provided by the Security Council. The United States will be, at best, one among many countries represented in the ISA. Conceivably, due to membership rotation, there could be times when it might not even have a vote – to say nothing of a veto – over decisions taken by that body.”
Gaffney went on to say that the ISA could easily take it upon itself to issue permits for oil or gas exploration immediately outside our coastal boundaries without any regard whatsoever for what the Environment & Public Works Committee, the Congress or – for that matter – the American people think. Refusing to abide by their decision would leave us liable to a large financial penalty levied by the international tribunal created to enforce ISA decisions.
Dr. Peter M. Leitner, Senior Strategic Trade Advisor to the Defense Department, a longstanding critic of the Law of the Sea Treaty, and author of Reforming the Law of the Sea Treaty: Opportunities Missed, Precedents Set, and U.S. Sovereignty (University Press of America), also testified before the Environment & Public Works Committee. He, too, had been denied the right to be heard by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Dr. Leitner told the Committee that he had been assigned at DOD while working on export licensing issues to oversee a case involving the desire of the People’s Republic of China to use their status as a “pioneer investor” in ocean mining to acquire sensitive technology vital to our national security. It has the potential to bolster China’s capability in submarine warfare. Despite Dr. Leitner’s best efforts, he lost the battle because “zealous advocates of the Treaty in several government agencies saw to it that the technology was provided to the PRC so as not to undermine the ‘spirit of the Treaty.'”
He warns that many Treaty supporters are aware of its shortcomings but are willing to push those concerns aside because a favorite carrot has been included or because they believe we can effectively ignore those measures that are counter to our interest.
Those supporters who place profit over patriotism certainly deserve our contempt. The latter group however, are either willfully ignorant of how the world works or knowingly playing with fire. Seemingly, many lawyers and judges in our own country will be receptive to the ISA’s authority if only to pre-empt our country’s decision-makers from being exposed to lawsuits or other penalties in international court.
The best thing we can do with this Treaty is never to sign it – to sink it. Unfortunately, this is a very difficult task given the fact that there is an element within the Bush Administration that wants it and, if they do not succeed in getting it, then there is likely to be a push by succeeding administrations.
This is where you, the grassroots, must become activated to protect our nation’s sovereignty.
Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), a true patriot, deserves our thanks for holding a hearing that allowed both sides to present their views, including those of the critics. That this did not happen in the Foreign Relations Committee, which stacked the testimony in favor of the LOST proponents, does not speak well of the committee or Senator Richard Lugar, its chairman. A vigorous debate on this Treaty is desperately needed. How could the Senate Foreign Relations Committee rush to okay a Treaty that cedes control of two-thirds of the world’s surface to a global governance organization in which our own country’s viewpoint is likely to be discounted – or put on equal footing with Djibouti.
Indeed, the impact of this Treaty runs beyond the jurisdiction of Foreign Relations or even Environment & Public Works. Dr. Leitner pointedly urged to have the Finance, Judiciary, Interior Armed Services and Select Intelligence committees also explore the problems that would be posed by our participation in this Treaty.
The members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Congress overall, the Bush Administration, and the leadership of both political parties need to know that now, and in the future, grassroots conservatives stand ready to fight every attempt to have the Senate ratify this Treaty and to know that the actions and votes they take on this Treaty will be closely monitored and remembered on Election Day.
Contacting public officials is only step one. More effort needs to be put forth to make sure more patriotic Americans truly understand what our ratification of this Treaty means — ceding our sovereignty to “Big Blue.” Like the ERA and like the Kyoto Treaty, the fine print in the Law of the Sea Treaty contains provisions that can wreak mayhem. They must be exposed and debated. It is disturbing when the answer provided by the General Counsel to the question, “Will Americans be stopped from searching suspicious foreign ships in our waters?” is, “I don’t know.”
Conservatives can take satisfaction in the brief notice in The Wall Street Journal. We need to be aware, however, that we have not won a final victory. LOST has simply rejoined the living dead…for now. It’s up to us to make sure it never, ever comes back to life.