Inhofe: Retrofitting Unilateralism


The Senate Foreign Relations Committee votes tomorrow on the Law of the Sea. The Committee is likely to approve the treaty, as it should.
Frank Gaffney publishes a weekly column in the Washington Times. For the last three months or so, his column has targeted the Law of the Sea week in, week out. I have a general policy against repeating opposing arguments, but I do plan from now on to rebut Gaffney’s weekly diatribe. I’ll call it “The Weekly Gaff.”
“But that will have to wait one more week. Before I even found Gaffney’s column today, which is a predictable rehash of the old misinformation, I found Jim Inhofe’s Law of the Sea op-ed. Amazingly, Inhofe confesses that the opposition arguments are completely unfounded. Many critics are saying that U.S. military activities could be subject to “lawfare,” but Inhofe responds:

“Part of the [Navy’s] endorsement stems from the fact that the Navy is highly supportive of the aforementioned rules of navigation. The Navy also argues, and textually it is true, that military activities are exempted.”

Messrs. Gaffney and Bolton, take note. The dispute settlement provisions do not apply to military activities, and the U.S. gets to define what is military.
What about the myth that the Law of the Sea could subject the U.S. to foreign courts? Inhofe:

“It is important to note that no foreign or international entity could actually force the United States into any international court.”

Senator Inhofe then explains why he really believes we shouldn’t ratify the Law of the Sea:

“The United States could go on about its business as if everyone else in the world is misinterpreting the treaty — but our standing in the world would suffer because of this.
No matter how right we may be in our conduct on the high seas, this treaty will give our enemies the opportunity to stand in front of the United Nations and criticize the United States for its unwillingness to fulfill its treaty obligations. We do not need a treaty that puts our standing in the world in this predicament.”

Senator Inhofe is amazingly out of touch. The truth is that rejecting the International Criminal Court, the Kyoto Protocol, and a host of other reasonable agreements broadly embraced by the international community has done untold damage to America’s image. Our absence from the Law of the Sea is what hurts U.S. standing — not misunderstandings of the agreed rules between state parties.
The argument seems extremely defensive — almost as if Inhofe woke up this morning, realized that Americans care about world opinion of the U.S. and tried to retrofit his foreign policy to this “new reality.”Andrew Rice could have a field day with this.
I certainly do hope tomorrow’s Committee vote is decided in part based on how the Law of the Sea might affect U.S. standing. If it’s decided on any basis other than irrational fear of international institutions, we should be in for a big win.
— Scott Paul


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