Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations committee turned the proud men and women of our military into a political football. During a hearing on the long-stalled Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST), two top Obama administration officials constantly invoked the military a reason to ratify fatally flawed treaty.
In her written testimony, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “no country is in a position to gain more” from the treaty because “as the world's foremost maritime power, the United States benefits from the Convention's favorable freedom of navigation provisions.” She also declared the treaty would “secure U.S. sovereign rights over extensive marine areas.”
It is a savvy public relations move that proponents of the U.N. treaty have decided to play the national security card and hijack the winning message of sovereignty. There is just one problem with these arguments, though: they are not true.
Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) asked General Martin E. Dempsey, USA, the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whether America is “at risk as a result of failure to ratify this treaty.” In a measured tone, the General Dempsey responded, “based on our current application of customary international law, we will, of course, assert our sovereignty and our ability to navigate” and “our ability to project force will not deteriorate.”
Defined in its most simplistic terms, sovereignty is the freedom from external control. And while 162 countries have been willing to cede their freedom to an international organization based in Jamaica, America has refused to do so for three decades. What President Ronald Reagan, and countless Senators, understood is that an international treaty does not guarantee America’s sovereignty, but rather it would erode our freedom.
Even when then-President George W. Bush pushed the treaty, the sovereignty argument won the day and stalled the treaty. Proponents learned their lesson, forming the “American Sovereignty Campaign” to push for the ratification of LOST. On top of a crafty campaign name, they are also advertising on conservative websites that have been critical of the treaty.
It’s a crafty campaign, but as The Heritage Foundation has explained repeatedly, LOST will undermine America’s sovereignty, not restore it. One international law expert described the treaty in stark terms:
“It is therefore not an exaggeration to say that, as a result of production technology on the deep seabed and subsoil, U.S. Senate ratification of LOST would mean the largest abandonment of territorial rights by any nation in history. More than that, LOST would put those territorial rights to a very specific purpose.” (emphasis added)