Lee Hamilton, the former Democratic Congressman from Indiana, reports in an August 27 column in the Indianapolis Star that the Senate will vote in September whether to join the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The treaty, the most comprehensive and potentially dangerous ever devised, would dramatically affect the ability of the U.S. to compete for oil and gas and precious minerals in the oceans of the world.
The New York Times is the latest liberal paper to endorse the treaty, arguing in an August 25 editorial that "unless the United States joins up, it could very well lose out in what is shaping up as a mad scramble to lay claim to what are believed to be immense deposits of oil, gas and other resources under the Arctic ice-deposits that are becoming more and more accessible as the earth warms and the ice melts." But something is fishy here. Since when has the Times been an advocate of the U.S. laying claim to and exploiting those resources? This is a paper that has consistently opposed President Bush's limited plan to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The Times' endorsement of the treaty, by citing the real and pressing need for access to resources under the Arctic ice, is dishonest. If the U.S. ratifies the treaty and stakes a claim to those resources under it, the paper would be the first to oppose it. In fact, the U.S. already has valid and legitimate claims to the area without going through the treaty.
While there have been rumors that UNCLOS hearings will be held in September before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Hamilton column is the first indication that a vote will be held as well. That means the public only has days or weeks, at most, to understand what is at stake and influence their Senators. The treaty requires 67 votes for passage.
Ironically, the Times editorial serves as a case study of what is wrong with the treaty.
Regarding the Arctic, for example, the Times says that "The Law of the Sea [treaty] will provide the forum for determining who gets what." That is true if the U.S. agrees to ratify the treaty. But why should the U.S. agree to let a treaty negotiated under the auspices of the U.N. decide "who gets what?" The Times says that, "Claims and disputes will be resolved by arbitration panels established by the treaty." Again, why should the U.S. delegate decision-making authority to international bodies?
The complete failure of the Times editorialists to provide any answers to these questions demonstrates that a pro-U.N. media bias is at work here. The paper wants the treaty ratified simply for the sake of passing another treaty. This is the globalist mind-set exhibited by those opposed to America acting in its own national interest. The irony, of course, is that the Bush Administration, a frequent target of the Times for its conduct of foreign affairs, is backing UNCLOS.
Yet, it was Bush adviser Karl Rove who told Rush Limbaugh that "...if you have to wake up in the morning to be validated by the editorial page of the New York Times, you got a pretty sorry existence." Many conservatives are wondering why President Bush and Times editorial writers are on the same page. Perhaps they are both wrong.
The Times editorial describes the treaty as "solemn," which is a fascinating word choice suggesting it has been handed down from on high and that God-like authority has been delegated to those enforcing it.
Indeed, consider what else the Times says about UNCLOS. "The law gives each nation control over its own coastal waters-an 'exclusive economic zone' extending 200 miles offshore," it says. "The rest is regarded as international waters, subject to agreed-upon rules governing fishing, protection of the marine environment, navigation and mining on the ocean floor. A country can claim territory and mineral deposits beyond the 200-mile limit, but only if it can prove that the seabed is a physical extension of its continental shelf."
The phrase, "the law gives," is interesting and revealing. By passing the treaty, foreigners on panels and courts will then decide what we can do in "international waters." So what happens if and when these foreign-dominated panels decide against America? Will the Times support the U.S. abrogating a "solemn" treaty that goes against our interests? Don't bet on it.
In the past, Karl Rove and other administration officials have defended the treaty on the grounds that the U.S. military supports it. An analysis of why this is the case shows that the dramatic decline in the number of U.S. Navy ships, from 594 under President Reagan to only 276 under President Bush, is driving the Pentagon's endorsement of the pact. Under the sway of international lawyers, Department of Defense officials have concluded that a piece of paper that asserts some rights we already take for granted on the high seas is better than nothing.
The Pentagon is not immune to the influence of international lawyers. My recent report on this matter noted that Navy Commander James Kraska, who handled oceans policy on the Joint Staff of the Pentagon, was among those who paid tribute to Louis Sohn of Harvard, a writer of UNCLOS who co-authored a book, World Peace Through World Law, outlining a plan for transforming the U.N. into a world government. I also discovered a thesis written back in 1996 by a student at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, on the subject of establishing a U.N. Navy. British Professor Gwyn Prins, who served as a consultant in the Office of the NATO Secretary-General, has long advocated such a force.
This kind of thinking is why many conservatives argue that the Pentagon has gone dangerously off-course. They say the answer to UNCLOS is building up the U.S. Navy and the Coast Guard and making our military once again into the "Law on the Sea."
On the other hand, if we want America to be defended by international lawyers and a U.N. Navy, rather than U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships, UNCLOS makes perfect sense.