Proponents of the United Nation’s Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) came up with a brilliant idea. Led by the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, they hoped to celebrate the 24th of October – also known as UN Day – by having that panel rubber-stamp LOST.
Fortunately, one of the Senate’s most knowledgeable and determined opponents of the Treaty, Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, exercised his right to defer its consideration, from the committee business meeting scheduled for Wednesday to at least the next one. Whether this will amount to more than a fleeting stay-of-execution depends on how many other Senators – and their constituents – become aware of the implications of making the day in this manner of the United Nations and affiliated organizations.
Sen. Vitter is certainly doing his part. He has asked for additional hearings before the Foreign Relations Committee, offering an opportunity for more witnesses to explain LOST’s myriad shortcomings. He has also provided a powerful briefing to many of his colleagues, prompting others to take up the cause.
Another leading critic of the Treaty, Sen. Jim Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, has asked for hearings before two committees on which he serves. Both the Armed Services and Environment and Public Works Committees would have their respective jurisdictions dramatically affected by LOST and the implementing legislation sure to follow from its ratification.
The same should certainly be occurring in at least six other committees. For example, the Finance Committee surely has an interest in the repercussions of LOST- established precedents for international taxation. The Judiciary Committee should consider how this accord will further the practice of subordinating domestic law to international jurisprudence.
The Intelligence Committee – whose Democratic chairman Jay Rockefeller generally treats with extreme skepticism what Bush Administration officials tell him – should obtain a “second opinion” on the latters’ assurances that U.S. intelligence will not be impaired by LOST.
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs would have a two-fer, due 1) to the fact that LOST may require, among other things, the compromise of sensitive information about domestic industries in the name of environmental regulation, and 2) the growing allegations of corruption and incompetence in LOST’s utterly unaccountable International Seabed Authority.
The Energy and Natural Resources Committee should want to ascertain whether any American company is going to be willing to explore the ocean floors’ resources if, as the price of doing so, they have to give sensitive data and technology to international competitors. The Commerce Committee should have its own concerns about the prospective compromise of U.S. technologies and the Treaty’s other detrimental effects on our competitiveness (such as its socialist, redistributionist agenda, its imposition of the Luddite “precautionary principle” – which precludes innovation unless it can be proven harmless – and its adoption of European, rather than U.S., industrial standards).
What is certain is, if these committees fail to perform due diligence on the Law of the Sea Treaty, the United States could well soon find itself creating – and confronting – a UN on steroids.
LOST proponents tend to scoff at such a prospect. They point to the relatively small size of the Kingston, Jamaica-based international bureaucracy that has operated the International Seabed Authority in obscurity over the past twenty-five years. This is a deflection, as misleading as it is deliberate.
The truth of the matter is that the UN and its admirers are so keen on U.S. accession to the Law of the Sea Treaty precisely because it will transform that so-called “constitution of the seas” into an actual charter for a new supranational order. As with the United Nations, American membership will infuse millions of dollars into LOST agencies’ budgets, as we pick up a quarter of the tab. Worse, the United States will lend legitimacy and real power to the Treaty’s mandatory dispute resolution mechanisms by subjecting itself, its businesses and taxpayers to their jurisdiction.
We are on notice, moreover, that – once these UN-affiliated arbitral panels come to exercise authority over our affairs – the international plaintiffs bar will be exploiting these vehicles as mechanisms for doing just that. Some have indicated they intend to use LOST to impose the Kyoto Protocol. Others clearly envision suing the U.S. Navy to force it to conform to vast new environmental and other obligations under the Treaty. Still others have not specified their targets, instead urging restraint in filing such suits until the U.S. becomes a party, lest our ratification be jeopardized by prematurely revealing the true costs of this treaty.
It would be one thing if Americans were being brought into the decision to make the UN’s day by subordinating our constitutional, representative form of government and our sovereignty to the dictates of international bureaucrats and the generally hostile nations who typically call their tune. Instead, the Senate’s Democratic leadership seems determined to secure LOST’s ratification by running silent, running deep – preventing the needed hearings, silencing the critics and otherwise suppressing debate.
So far, among the major presidential candidates, only the GOP’s former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has aligned himself squarely with Ronald Reagan in opposing the Law of the Sea Treaty. Unless the rest of the field promptly joins him, they will share responsibility for, and have to live with the consequences of, a UN on steroids.
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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