Prick up your ears. The Law of the Sea Treaty is a bad idea. Very bad for America. Buying into this latest bit of international fascism. Abandoning our national sovereignty to UN warlords? You’re kidding right?
How Many Lawyers Does It Take to Sink the U.S. Navy?
Unfortunately, the Law of the Sea Treaty is no laughing
by Jeremy Rabkin, Weekly Standard
On October 1962, President Kennedy ordered the U.S. Navy to prevent foreign
ships from reaching Cuba unless they submitted to U.S. inspections on the high
seas to verify that they were not transporting missiles or other offensive
weapons to the island. Similar measures had been adopted in wartime blockades,
but the Kennedy administration, not wanting to acknowledge a state of war with
Cuba, termed this intervention a "quarantine."
It was a soothing term in the midst of a confrontation which threatened to
trigger a catastrophic nuclear exchange. So the Kennedy administration did not
let itself worry that its "quarantine" did not happen to correspond with any
recognized practice in international law.
If a similar crisis should arise today, the Bush administration seems to
think we could rely on an international tribunal to determine whether U.S.
actions were or were not legally valid.
In the 1980s, Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi claimed the Gulf of Sidra as
Libyan territorial waters and demanded that foreign ships obtain Libyan
permission before entering this broad bay on the Mediterranean coast. Since the
mouth of the bay is 300 miles wide, it was not very plausible, under generally
recognized principles of international law, to claim that all the enclosed
waters were Libyan territorial seas. But Libya could have claimed authority to
enforce conservation standards in an "exclusive economic zone" covering the
whole Gulf of Sidra.
Rather than argue the fine points at length, President Reagan sent a carrier
task force into these waters in 1986 to prove that they were open to
international navigation, without prior permission. The task force opened fire
on Libyan patrol boats which tried to resist its intervention. Two of the Libyan
boats were sunk, with the loss of all hands.
Today, the Bush administration seems to think we could avoid such
unpleasantness by relegating all such disputes to the determination of an
In the past, writers on international law acknowledged that states could not
be expected to submit the most sensitive political questions–those most vital
to national security–to international arbitration. Most of the world seems to
have abandoned this view, but most nations no longer make great efforts to
provide for their own defense. So, even as the United States has substantially
reduced the scale of its naval forces, since the peak years of the Reagan
build-up we have acquired a larger and larger share of the world’s naval
capacity. Others have shrunk their forces further and faster.
In past centuries, rules about the conduct of ships at sea emerged from
agreements among major naval powers, and there were always a number of naval
powers engaged in challenging, enforcing, and accommodating agreed-upon
standards. Now, when the United States (by some estimates) actually deploys a
majority of the world’s naval capacity, we are told that our security requires
us to participate with 150 other states in electing international judges to
determine, in the last analysis, what rules our Navy must accept.
To find this convincing, one must be awed by the moral authority of the U.N.
majority. To think that way means that we seek consensus at almost any price.
Why do we claim to be independent, why do we invest so many billions in defense
capacities, if we are prepared to go along with an international consensus,
articulated (and -readjusted) by international jurists? The Senate should think
long and hard before making the U.S. Navy answer to the U.N version of the Law
of the Sea.
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