Any minute now, President Bush is going to make a fateful mistake. He will announce that his administration will make a concerted effort to secure the prompt ratification of a deeply flawed multilateral accord universally known by its acronym – LOST, as in the Law of the Sea Treaty.
When it comes to LOST, of course, prompt is a relative thing. It was first opened to signature and ratification in the early 1980s, but Ronald Reagan rejected it. In the mid-1990s, Bill Clinton resuscitated and negotiated a side-deal designed to fix, or at least obscure, what Mr. Reagan found objectionable.
Then, in 2004, the Bush administration decided to embrace the Law of the Sea Treaty. The argument seemed principally to be that, in the aftermath of the bruising fight over Iraq, doing so would demonstrate that the United States could still play well with its allies and other nations. Most were parties to LOST and are slavishly devoted to this and other treaties on the agenda of the Transnational Progressives (or Transies, for short).
Fortunately, a happy correlation of forces kept the Transies at bay temporarily. Despite an effort to secure Senate advice and consent to LOST in the parliamentary equivalent of the dark of night, a broad coalition of largely conservative and libertarian organizations came together in adamant opposition. Then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who had presidential ambitions, recognized the inadvisability of bucking such forces. Frist’s National Security Advisor, Mark Esper, had been at the Pentagon when the interagency review of the wisdom of breathing new life into LOST was debated. As a result, Esper knew precisely how problematic the treaty would be and provided his boss with substantive grounds for keeping the treaty bottled up.
There things might have rested – with the United States continuing to do what it has done since President Reagan’s day: remain a non-party to the Law of the Sea Treaty, observing its unobjectionable provisions concerning navigation and transit rights, while not subjecting itself to the accord’s myriad supranational institutions. The latter purport to govern the international sea beds and, according to some, the oceans and even the airspace above them.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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