Sovereignty levees breached?

Posted: Sep 12, 2005 12:00 AM
 Since it seems the only news that is fit to print (or air) these days has to do with Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, finding a related angle to call needed public and leadership attention to something else happening in the world requires a little ingenuity. 
Since the stakes associated with another, largely unremarked story – involving a drama that will reach its denouement at UN headquarters this week – may be nothing less than the future sovereignty and character of the United States, however, a way must be found.
            As it happens, the answer lies in the toxic liquid now being pumped out of New Orleans into waterways that will, inexorably, contaminate the international reaches of Gulf of Mexico, and perhaps beyond.  The United States has unilaterally determined that this potentially huge environmental damage is justified by the need to recover and restore a major American city, its population and economy.
            Interestingly, shortly before Katrina precipitated this crisis, a gaggle of former senior government officials wrote Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist demanding that he swiftly effect the ratification of a controversial accord known as the Law of the Sea Treaty (or LOST).  The authors dismissed concerns expressed by conservatives that LOST would impinge upon U.S. sovereignty and vital interests.

            If the United States were a party to the Law of the Sea Treaty today though, it is very likely America would be enjoined from dumping New Orleans’ toxic stew into Lake Ponchartrain and the Mississippi River.  For one thing, this action would violate the Treaty’s environmental obligations to protect marine life and its habitats, obligations whose sweep makes those of the Kyoto Treaty seem modest by comparison.
            For another, the Law of the Sea Tribunal – the sort of multilateral legal institution whose tendency for politicization and anti-American actions has prompted the Bush Administration to reject the International Criminal Court – has already established a relevant precedent.  In a case brought by Ireland against Great Britain, the Tribunal has established that its jurisdiction extends to activities on sovereign member states’ soil that can arguably affect international waters. (An important question for Senators to put to Chief Justice nominee John Roberts would be whether, like some other justices, he would regard such an internationally dictated injunction to trump America’s domestic jurisprudence?)
            Unfortunately, since Ronald Reagan’s day, American governments have tended to pay too little attention to sovereignty-sapping treaties and institutional power-grabs by the United Nations and other multilateral organizations.  To his credit, Mr. Reagan recognized the Law of the Sea Treaty for what it was intended to be by the World Federalists and so-called non-aligned movement types who had a significant hand in shaping its supranational International Seabed Authority and related entities: a highly precedential, and undesirable, vehicle for establishing world-government mechanisms to control the “international commons” (in this case, the oceans) at the expense of sovereign states.

            President Reagan refused to agree to LOST’s ratification in part because he found anathema the idea of empowering an international organization to raise its own revenues through what amount to taxes on seabed mining and energy exploitation.  Regrettably, the Bush Administration has to date chosen to overlook this and the Treaty’s other adverse implications for U.S. sovereignty, and says it supports LOST’s ratification.
            The good news is that President Bush seems in no mood to go along with the logical extrapolation of the Law of the Sea Treaty – the so-called “Draft Outcome Document” for the UN General Assembly meeting on September 14th through 16th.  The document has been the focus of intense negotiations ever since Mr. Bush succeeded in getting his representative, John Bolton, in place at Turtle Bay.  Despite fresh evidence from former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker that the UN is scandal-ridden, corrupt, poorly organized and managed and incompetently led, Secretary General Kofi Anan wants the American and other world leaders to ratify this week what amounts to his wish-list.

            As of this writing, however, Amb. Bolton has registered strong U.S. objections to language that would bind America to actions that, under this President, it has firmly opposed: ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; opening negotiations on space arms control; creating what amounts to a standing UN army; and foregoing systemic UN reforms, in favor of cosmetic ones. 
            Of arguably greatest importance is the U.S. refusal to empower the United Nations to levy taxes – a step that would, as with the Law of the Sea Treaty, advance the organization’s ambitions to promote world government.  Globotaxes would also eviscerate what remains in the way of American leverage to effect real reform of the UN and to punish its misbehavior.  It is estimated that one proposed tax on international currency transactions alone would be able to generate a staggering $13 trillion in revenue.

            Just as Hurricane Katrina ruptured the levees protecting New Orleans, the UN’s concerted assault on the barriers to further erosion of American sovereignty threatens to swamp our freedom of action and our founding principle of “no taxation without representation.”  It behooves President Bush to reject any Outcome Document that leaves the door open to globotaxes, let alone one that endorses them outright.  Rather than lend his authority to such an exercise, he should be willing to refuse to attend the UN summit meeting this week that Mr. Anan hoped would be the biggest fund-raiser in the history of the world.