February 26, 2004,
John Kerry wants a world in which the United Nations calls the shots and U.S. freedom of action, in the absence of the U.N.'s permission, is sharply circumscribed. Most Americans recognize that this would be a formula for disaster a world in which the lowest-common-multilateral-denominator would routinely trump, and often jeopardize, our security interests.
President George W. Bush's supporters believe that he rejects this Kerry-Clinton worldview. They look forward to a national election in which voters get to choose between his Reaganesque philosophy of peace through American strength and Kerry's U.N. uber alles.
So why would the Bush administration be pushing for the ratification of a treaty that will make a giant leap towards John Kerry's world?
On Wednesday, Sen. Kerry voted by proxy (since he can't take time off from running for president to do his day job in person) for a resolution of ratification that would make the U.S. a party to the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST). He was able to do so, however, only because the Bush team decided to eschew President Reagan's 1982 judgment that LOST was irremediably defective, in favor of President Clinton's 1994 assessment that the accord was in America's interests. With the support of the Bush administration, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar brought the treaty to a unanimous favorable vote and promises to try to get the Senate to act on it "as soon as possible."
Unfortunately, as usual, Ronald Reagan was right and Bill Clinton was wrong. Here's why:
U.S. adherence to this treaty would entail history's biggest and most unwarranted voluntary transfer of wealth and surrender of sovereignty. A product of the Left/Soviet-Non-Aligned Movement-agenda of the 1960s and '70s, LOST creates the International Seabed Authority (ISA) a supranational organization with unprecedented powers.
These include the power to: regulate seven-tenths of the world's surface area, levy international taxes, impose production quotas (for deep-sea mining, oil production, etc.), govern ocean research and exploration, and create a multinational court to render and enforce its judgments. Some even aspire to giving the U.N. some of our warships so it can have "blue hulls" to go along with its "blue helmets" to ensure that the ISA's edicts are obeyed.
LOST was drafted before and without regard to the war on terror, and what the U.S. must do to wage it successfully. As a result, U.S. national-security interests will be severely undermined by several of the treaty's provisions. For example, the sorts of at-sea interdiction efforts central to President Bush's new Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) would be prohibited. Communist China has already taken to citing the treaty to object to PSI maritime interdiction and the boarding of suspect vessels.
The treaty effectively prohibits two functions vital to American security: collecting intelligence in, and submerged transit of, territorial waters. Mandatory information sharing will afford U.S. enemies data that could be used to facilitate attacks on this country (e.g., detailed imagery of underwater access routes and offshore hiding places). Obligatory technology transfers will equip actual or potential adversaries with sensitive and militarily useful equipment and know-how (such as anti-submarine warfare technology).
The treaty fails to address, let alone offer solutions to, the most dangerous flashpoints for military conflict facing the world. In fact, Communist China is using its own unique interpretation of the treaty to justify its inexorably increasing control over the strategic South China Sea. The PRC creates and fortifies man-made islands near that sea's rich oil and mineral deposits, then asserts that LOST entitles it to exclusive economic control of the waters within a 200 nautical-mile radius including waters transited by the vast majority of Japanese and American oil tankers en route to and from the Persian Gulf.
The truth of the matter is that the Law of the Sea Treaty is so defective, so contrary to U.S. interests that the only way it could possibly be ratified is for it to be blown through the Senate when no one is looking. That is precisely what Sen. Lugar is trying to do. He has: prevented critics from testifying before his own committee; kept other committees from being briefed on the treaty; and is seeking to get it to the Senate floor before effective opposition can be organized and expressed. This abuse of traditional Senate practice and good governance must not be allowed to stand.
Alas, in addition to the wealth redistributors, one-worlders, environmentalists, international lawyers, and the other usual suspects on the Left, the U.S. Navy, the American oil industry and Vice President Cheney currently support LOST. Such support appears to be motivated by narrow, parochial, and shortsighted reasons (e.g., the belief that having internationally agreed "rules of the road" for the world's oceans will be good for the respective businesses of the Navy and the deep-sea "oil patch.")
Such myopic support is even more grievously misplaced and foolish than that given in 1997 by a powerful trade association the Chemical Manufacturers Association to another defective treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention. Thanks to the CMA's lobbying at the time, its members are today (as was predicted) being subjected to onerous international inspections, thereby risking, among other things, the loss of proprietary information to foreign spies masquerading as international inspectors. Now, too late, they wish the U.S. had not ratified the CWC.
The U.S. cannot afford once again to ignore the real and grave costs of an ill-conceived and strategically ill-advised treaty at the behest of parochial and misguided special interests. Their later regrets will pale beside those the rest of us will feel.
The bottom line is that the Law of the Sea is a prime example of the way people like Sen. Kerry would like the world to be ordered and run. It is not consistent with Republican governing principles and values or, more importantly, this country's vital interests. If President Bush's base is upset, and properly so, over his immigration and spending-policy errors, they will be furious when they learn that his administration is willing to cede unprecedented American sovereignty, power, and control over who taxes and regulates U.S. businesses to the U.N.
Given what is at stake, Richard Lugar's efforts to ram the Law of the Sea Treaty through the Senate are all the more objectionable. It is imperative that other Senate committees whose jurisdictions will be affected by LOST (including Armed Services, Intelligence, Commerce, Environment and Public Works, Governmental Affairs, and Finance and for that matter their House counterparts, which may have to consider enacting legislation) should be able to hold their own, far-more-balanced hearings before the full Senate is asked to consider John Kerry's treaty.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is the president of the Center for Security Policy and an NRO contributing editor.