Defeat the Law of the Sea Treaty

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 13, 2007 | Go to article overview
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Defeat the Law of the Sea Treaty


Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Bush administration, together with several unlikely allies - including Sens. Joe Biden of Delaware and Dick Lugar of Indiana, and the majority of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - are attempting to impose a flawed international agreement on America. The U.N. Law of the Sea Treaty, known by its particularly apt acronym LOST, was wisely rejected 25 years ago by President Reagan and revived by the Clinton administration after several cosmetic changes. The "new" treaty was approved Oct. 31 by a 17-4 Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote. What was wrong with LOST 25 years ago is what's wrong with it now - it would undermine American sovereignty and risk national security by putting American efforts to counteract nuclear-weapons proliferation and international terrorism under the control of foreign judges.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration has embarked on a misguided public-relations campaign, perhaps as an exercise in legacy-polishing, to persuade the American people that enacting this treaty is a national security necessity. Writing in The Washington Times, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England urged ratification of LOST to ensure that the United States retain "unimpeded maritime mobility - the ability of our forces to respond any time, anywhere, if so required." Senate ratification of LOST, according to Mr. Bush, "will give the United States a seat at the table when the rights that are vital to our interests are interpreted and debated." But the structure of the treaty is so harmful to American interests that it won't make much difference whether American diplomats are at "the table" or not.

Several Republican supporters of the treaty, not allowing facts to get in the way of spin, have attempted to revise what Mr. Reagan actually thought about LOST. Mr. Lugar, ranking member on the Senate panel, asserts that Mr. Reagan's only objections were to a provision of the treaty that imposed a cumbersome bureaucratic system of regulation on seabed mining. The Clinton administration negotiated certain cosmetic changes as an appendix to the treaty - not part of the treaty itself - and joined European countries in pronouncing the treaty to be "OK now." Mr. Lugar is wrong about the flaws in the treaty and he's wrong about what Mr. Reagan objected to, which went well beyond the seabed mining provisions. In "The Reagan Diaries," published earlier this year, the president wrote this diary entry on June 29, 1982: "Decided in [National Security Council] meeting - will not sign 'Law of the Sea' treaty even without seabed-mining provisions." Mr. Reagan further objected to the fact that "national liberation movements" like the PLO would participate in the treaty, and to provisions for the "mandatory transfer of private technology" from industrialized nations to less-developed countries.

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