Ronald Reagan rejected the United Nations' Convention on the Law of the Sea 25 years ago, but the 202-page treaty generally known by its acronym LOST will not die. Reagan didn't like LOST -- which its conservative critics say would compromise U.S. sovereignty and cede control of the oil, gas and mineral riches of the deepest seabeds to U.N. bureaucrats -- because it was so obviously collectivist, redistributionist, bureaucratic and antithetical to American economic and military interests.
But the Bush administration, the Pentagon and many large mining companies are pushing for the United States to join the 155 countries that have ratified LOST. As Sen. Joe Biden prepares to hold Senate hearings on the Law of the Sea Treaty on Thursday, Sept. 27, we called one of its chief opponents, Cliff Kincaid, president of America's Survival Inc. (www.usasurvival.org.) to find out why Reagan was right and President Bush is wrong about LOST:
=Q: What is the Law of the Sea Treaty?
=A: This treaty is the biggest giveaway of American sovereignty and resources since the Panama Canal Treaty. It gives the United Nations bureaucracy control over the oceans of the world -- seven-tenths of the world’s surface. It sets up an International Seabed Authority to decide who gets access to oil, gas and minerals in international waters. The companies that get those rights to harvest those resources have to pay a global tax to the International Seabed Authority.
=Q: Where did this treaty come from?
=A: This treaty was negotiated and written by socialists and world-government advocates, mainly under the Jimmy Carter administration. It was so bad that President Reagan flatly rejected it.
=Q: What does the treaty do that is good or beneficial or necessary?
=A: Some people say it guarantees freedom of navigation on the high seas but that is a matter of dispute. The treaty says the oceans have to be reserved for peaceful purposes. That would appear to give the foreign judges who run the International Tribunal for the Law of the Seas, another institution set up by this treaty, the authority to decide what is peaceful and what is not. That is why opponents of the treaty fear that it could be used to inhibit and restrict U.S. military activities on the high seas.
=Q: Gathering intelligence, opening sea lanes, seizing terrorist -- all of those?
=A: All of those activities are potentially at risk and can be seen by these foreign judges as possible violations of the Law of the Sea Treaty.
=Q: Some supporters of the treaty say it contains no mention of a tax at all?
=A: They don’t call it a “tax,” that’s true. They call it “fees” or “royalties.” But the money flows to the International Seabed Authority for the right to go after certain gas and oil and mineral deposits. There’s no question about this. The United Nations Association, which is backing the treaty, has described it as providing the first source of independent revenue for the United Nations.
=Q: What's the biggest and most important thing wrong with LOST?
=A: The biggest thing wrong with it is that it is yet another United Nations project to give the world body more power, authority and influence over world affairs. The idea that the U.N. -- a notoriously corrupt and incompetent body, which squandered billions in the oil-for-food program with Iraq -- should now have jurisdiction over seven-tenths of the world surface, with money coming from American companies, is ludicrous.
=Q: But why are the Bush administration, the Pentagon and some mining companies in favor of LOST?
=A: I think what is driving support for the treaty is the Navy’s claim that it somehow offers some sort of protection for American interests around the world -- that it solidifies navigational rights on the high seas. But I believe that the Navy has taken this position because of two things: One, the influence of international lawyers in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) offices; and two, the dramatic decline in the number of Navy ships. We have gone from 594 under President Reagan to only 276 today.
I was at a symposium where a State Department official blurted out, candidly, “Oh, we need the Law of the Sea Treaty because we don’t have enough ships anymore to protect American interests." This idea that we should substitute a piece of paper with a U.N. rubber stamp on it for the necessity for building more ships is crazy.
But look at it from the point of view of U.S. corporations that want to get into these international waters and go after the oil, gas and minerals. If the Navy is not going to protect them, then what alternative do they have? They’re following the Navy’s lead in concluding, “Well, I guess we better support this treaty because it’s better than nothing.”
=Q: Who is supporting this treaty and why?
=A: People who have been pushing this treaty over the years in the Senate include the most liberal members -- not only Joe Biden, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, but also Sen. Richard Lugar, the top-ranking Republican on the committee. The people outside of the Senate who have really vigorously been promoting the treaty in addition to those you named are the special interest groups that are associated with the world-government movement.
=Q: Given the current makeup of the Senate, is it a done deal that it will be ratified?
=A: We are looking at a lot of undecideds on this issue right now. Certainly, supporters of the treaty can count on the liberal Democrats. The question is, “What are Republican conservatives going to do?” … We think a number of conservative Republican senators will end up opposing it. The question is, in the end, will we get the 34 votes to stop it.
=Q: What happens if the treaty is not stopped?
=A: If it’s not stopped, of course, the process will begin of turning over the resources of the oceans to the United Nations. We will have to hire more international lawyers to defend our interests before all of these foreign judges that run their tribunal and so-called "dispute-resolution" panels. It will be another sign of the decline of the United States and our weakness that we are not the superpower we used to be.