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Obama's Ambitious U.N. Treaty Agenda

July 20, 2009


With Al Franken replacing Norm Coleman, Senate Democrats have another vote for the U.N.'s Law of the Sea Treaty, and there are strong indications that they intend to bring this controversial document up for a vote within days or weeks. Those who favor the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) believe that U.S. security lies in passing a treaty and hiring more lawyers to defend America before an international tribunal, rather than building more ships for the Navy and Coast Guard.

The anticipated vote on the treaty follows a strong recent push for ratification from the Council on Foreign Relations and newspaper ads in favor of the treaty from the Pew Charitable Trusts, a $5 billion non-profit entity. Plus, the Obama State Department sent a document to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on May 11 that declared UNCLOS to be a top priority for the administration.

In fact, Obama's submission to the Foreign Relations Committee names 17 treaties that he wants ratified. In addition to UNCLOS, they include the feminist Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the unverifiable Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the gun rights-destroying Inter-American Convention Against Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials.

President Reagan, who pursued development of a 600-ship Navy and believed in a policy of peace-through-strength, refused to sign UNCLOS. His Attorney General, Edwin Meese, now with the Heritage Foundation, says Reagan would continue to oppose it. 

Senate Democrats may not listen to conservative objections to the pact, but they should pay some attention to the views of people like Newton B. Jones of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers. "As recently as 1987," he points out, "the Navy had 594 ships. At that time, we were not at war. Since then, despite growing threats from around the globe¯the Middle East, Korea , China¯we have built an average of only six ships a year, while decommissioning 20. The Navy's fleet is now only 281 ships, less than half its size in 1987."

He goes on to note that "...numerous reports recommend a fleet of 55-75 submarines, but the Navy is building only one a year. Our submarine fleet has shrunk from 100 in 1990 to 53 today. The American Shipbuilding Association estimates that at current rates, China will have twice as many submarines as the United States in only five years."

In fact, the American Shipbuilding Association estimates that, if present trends continue, we will be down to a paltry 180 ships by 2024.

Rather than build more ships, which could produce jobs for the Boilermakers union (which endorsed Obama for president) and Americans in general, Obama and Senate liberals would prefer to facilitate the hiring of more international lawyers to handle competing claims for access and resources in the oceans of the world. The treaty comes with a financial price¯a global fee or tax payable to a United Nations-sanctioned body.

Not coincidentally, Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, wrote the foreword for the book, The International Judge, a favorable treatment of foreign law and foreign judges. Chapter Two, titled, "International Judges: Who Are They and How Do They Get on the Courts?," examines such topics as "the job market." 

We may be losing jobs in our domestic economy, but opportunities are endless in the field of international law. Passage of UNCLOS would open up some well-paying jobs in the U.N.'s International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

However, the largely untold story is that of corruption in the international organizations that implement and monitor these treaties. For example, the International Seabed Authority in Jamaica , another of the Law of the Sea Treaty organizations, has been racked by corruption charges. Yet, the Senate has never held a hearing into these charges.

Obama is pushing UNCLOS now, but the Law of the Sea is not a partisan issue. The Republican George W. Bush Administration also pushed hard for ratification. Susan Biniaz of the U.S. Department of State explained the rationale during a July 17, 2007, appearance at the American Enterprise Institute. She explained, "I think someone said how few ships there are compared to how many there used to be. We don't have the capacity to be challenging every maritime claim throughout the world solely through the use of naval power. And [we] certainly can't use the Navy to meet all the economic interests."

So rather than build more ships, we will depend on a piece of paper from the U.N. to safeguard U.S. national security. Then we will hire more lawyers to represent our interests. But there has been no coherent explanation as to how a piece of paper will deter America 's enemies or the pirates who want to board our vessels or guarantee access to ocean resources.

UNCLOS is a substitute for a strong Navy and was deliberately designed as such. The people who wrote the treaty were World Federalists such as Louis B. Sohn, who co-authored World Peace Through World Law, a blueprint for world government. This international lawyer, who mentored Harold Koh, Obama's State Department Legal Adviser, sincerely believed that lawyers could help run the world as long as the international bureaucrats had sufficient power and resources through a strengthened United Nations. Sohn, who actually believed in a world army with nuclear weapons maintained by the U.N., saw UNCLOS as a stepping stone on the road to world government.

In what could be a preview of the UNCLOS battle, Koh was recently confirmed by a Senate vote of 62-35. If Senate conservatives can line up 35 votes against UNCLOS, they will defeat the pact, because it requires two-thirds, or 67 votes, for approval. However, some of the senators who voted against Koh, such as Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, are solidly in favor of UNCLOS.

One of the major unknowns is Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate, who was for the treaty before he ran for president. As a candidate, he was critical of the document, saying it was harmful to U.S. sovereignty.

The Navy destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, named after the grandfather and father of Senator McCain, stands as evidence of American power on the high seas. But the power is dwindling and passage of UNCLOS could be the final nail in the coffin of U.S. Naval superiority. 

Copyright ©2009 Cliff Kincaid

 


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