LOST: Law of the Sea Hearings Point to Lame Duck Passage Strategy
Today, the Senate has two hearings scheduled on the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST). The Senate will have had three hearings on the LOST after today—yet, not for the purposes of educating Senators on the flaws versus the benefits of the treaty. These hearings are a pretext for a lame duck strategy to railroad the treaty through the Senate after the November election.
The first hearing today is titled “Perspectives from the U.S. Military.” Witnesses include Admiral James A. Winnefeld, Jr, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and representatives from other government stakeholders in navigation on the high seas. The question that these witnesses can’t sufficiently answer is, “What can’t you do today, because of the LOST, that you could do if the treaty were to be ratified?” The answer is nothing.
Heritage’s Kim Holmes, former Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, wrote for The Washington Times last year that the navigational provisions in the treaty are not necessary.
The treaty’s navigational provisions offer nothing new. Yes, the U.S. Navy says (LOST) might improve the “predictability” of these rights, but does the Navy’s access to international waters really depend upon a treaty to which we are not even a member? The last time I checked, the U.S. Navy could go anywhere it wanted in international waters. Though redundant, the navigational provisions of (LOST) are actually pretty good. That’s why President Ronald Reagan supported them. But Reagan and others objected to the unaccountable international bureaucracy created by the treaty.
The second hearing today will include former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Heritage Foundation expert Steve Groves, former Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, and former Legal Advisor at State John B. Bellinger, III. This hearing will be an excellent opportunity for the opponents of LOST to make the case that this treaty is flawed.
The bottom line is that Senator John Kerry (D–MA) has been stacking hearings in favor of proponents of LOST. The first hearing this year included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
As I wrote in an op-ed at Townhall, opponents of the treaty made a strong case against ratification.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) professed to be starting from a neutral position vis a vis ratification. Directing a query to Ms. Clinton, he said, “A lot of people believe that the administration…wants to use this treaty as a way to get America into a regime relating to carbon, since it has been unsuccessful doing so domestically. And I wonder if you might respond to that.” Ms. Clinton’s response? She said she has a legal analysis that knocks down that argument. But not all Americans are willing to rely on a politically driven legal memo from the Obama Administration as a guarantee that this treaty will not empower the International Sea Bed Authority to force regulations on American business. Those seeking certainty on this vital issue would rather take a pass on the treaty than take a chance on Ms. Clinton’s promises.
Senators Mike Lee (R–UT) and Jim Risch (R–ID) expressed dissatisfaction with the Administration’s alleging that opponents of the treaty were engaging in “misinformation” and “mythology.” Risch argued that “you addressed the people who oppose ratification of the treaty, and…I hope you weren’t scoffing at us.” Proponents have engaged in name calling to avoid the central issues to be considered before ratification.
These hearings are intended to show that Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Kerry allowed conservatives to have their say before the lame duck strategy is implemented. The deck has been stacked, with two hearings in favor and one with a 50–50 split between proponents and opponents. Kerry used a similar strategy the last time the Senate considered the LOST.
Make no mistake; these hearings are part of the strategy of the treaty’s proponents to wait until after the election to push through LOST—in November or December of this year when the American people have no recourse against this offense against American sovereignty.
- Law of the Sea Treaty: A Tool to Combat Iran, China, and Russia? or Redistribution of wealth (mb50.wordpress.com)
- The Republicans’ secret weapon on LOST: information (humanevents.com)
- Colin Hanna: Congress needs to tell Law of the Sea Treaty to get lost (junkscience.com)
- Obama Seeks Ratification Of Power-Grabbing Law Of The Sea Treaty (mb50.wordpress.com)
Law of the Sea Treaty: A Tool to Combat Iran, China, and Russia? or Redistribution of wealth
Posted by Doug Bandow
Every few years, the Law of the Sea Treaty rears its head as a one-size-fits-all solution to a host of current maritime problems. This time, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff, are urging the Senate to ratify the treaty. The officials claim it will act as a tool to deal with aggressive actions by Iran, China, and Russia. But as I have long argued, no matter the current rationale for the treaty, it represents a bad deal for the United States.
Panetta and Dempsey rolled out three hot issues to make their case:
- Iran is threatening the world economy in the Strait of Hormuz? The Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) will help solve this.
- China is threatening the Philippines in the South China Sea? LOST is a crucial tool to prevent war.
- Russia is claiming land in the Arctic region to extract natural resources? LOST will put the screws to Moscow.
These international controversies will be magically resolved if only the Senate ratifies the convention.
If this sounds too good to be true, it is. It is not clear the treaty would do much at all to alleviate these flashpoints. Especially since the two most important potential antagonists, China and Russia, already have ratified LOST. And it is certainly not the best option policy-wise for the United States with each issue: Iran’s bluster in the Strait of Hormuz may prove its weakness. U.S. policy in the South China Sea suffers from a far more serious flaw: encouraging free-riding by allied states. Russia’s move into the Arctic has nothing to do with Washington’s absence from LOST.
The treaty itself, not substantially altered since 1994, is still plagued by the same problems that have halted its ratification for decades. Primarily, it will cede decisionmaking on seabed and maritime issues to a large, complex, unwieldy bureaucracy that will be funded heavily by—wait for it—the Untied States.
On national security, the U.S. Navy does not need such a treaty to operate freely. Its power relative to all other navies is the ultimate guarantee. Serious maritime challengers do not exist today. Russia’s navy is a rusted relic; China has yet to develop capabilities that come close to matching ours. Moreover, it is doubtful that the United States needs to defend countries such as the Philippines when flashpoints over islands in the region affect no vital American interests.
The average American knows very little about this treaty, and rightly so. It is an unnecessarily complicated and entangling concoction that accomplishes little that the longstanding body of customary international law on the high-seas or the dynamics of markets do not account for. My conclusion in testimony before the Senate Committee on Armed Services in 2004 still holds true:
All in all, the LOST remains captive to its collectivist and redistributionist origins. It is a bad agreement, one that cannot be fixed without abandoning its philosophical presupposition that the seabed is the common heritage of the world’s politicians and their agents, the Authority and Enterprise. The issue is not just abstract philosophical principle, but very real American interests, including national security. For these reasons, the Senate should reject the treaty.
- US Administration Renews Push to Ratify Law of Sea Treaty (voanews.com)
- Obama’s Sneaky Treaties (fromthetrenchesworldreport.com)
- Oil Wars on the Horizon (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Note:The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty, is the international agreement that resulted from the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III), which took place from 1973 through 1982. The Law of the Sea Convention defines the rights and responsibilities of nations in their use of the world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources. The Convention, concluded in 1982, replaced four 1958 treaties. UNCLOS came into force in 1994, a year after Guyana became the 60th state to sign the treaty. To date, 162 countries and the European Community have joined in the Convention. However, it is uncertain as to what extent the Convention codifies customary international law.While the Secretary General of the United Nations receives instruments of ratification and accession and the UN provides support for meetings of states party to the Convention, the UN has no direct operational role in the implementation of the Convention. There is, however, a role played by organizations such as the International Maritime Organization, the International Whaling Commission, and the International Seabed Authority (the latter being established by the UN Convention).