The Corner

Law of the Sea: Do We Really Want to Create Another Mini-U.N.?

In this morning’s Washington Times, Deputy Sec’y of State John Negroponte and his counterpart at the Pentagon, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, offer a thoroughly unpersuasive argument urging ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty (which, aptly, may be called LOST) — a multi-lateral, redistributionist scheme that comes with its own U.N.-like supervisory “Authority” (that the U.S., of course, would be expected substantially to fund), and an international legal tribunal which would gain enormous legitimacy by American participation and the rulings of which would inevitably interfere with American naval operations and national security. (Think of the U.N.’s “World Court” — the International Court of Justice — which a few years ago ruled 14-1 that Israel’s security fence, which reduced terrorist attacks by over 90 percent, was a violation of international law.)

President Reagan declined to entangle the United States in this monstrosity back in 1982. President Clinton’s efforts to improve it were grossly inadequate and even he declined to ask Congress to ratify it in 1998.

Having seen, again and again, the tragi-comic disaster that is the U.N., why would we want to go down this path … again? (Claudia Rosett, call your office!)

Doug Bandow laid out the problems with the treaty in a 2005 Washington Times op-ed and a 2004 Weekly Standard piece, reproduced by the Cato Institute here. Deputy Secretaries Negroponte and England do not even acknowledge, much less address, these flaws.

Our current threat environment, coupled with the abysmal performance of international institutions, cries out for a re-thinking all these multi-lateral commitments. Negroponte and England’s claim that we need to ratify LOST in order to demonstrate our commitment to “the rule of law” is absurd. The American people, who do more for the people of the world than any nation in history, have a rule of law; it is known as the Constitution. It allows us to make agreements as needed with nations based on our mutual interests (and it is worth noting that most of the benefits under LOST are already honored under other treaties and international law — LOST is unnecessary to them). But we don’t need another multi-lateral scheme with yet another ever-bloating international bureaucracy to render the actions of the United States legitimate.