Kerry to Move Soon on Law of the Sea


That most famous and frustrating of oceans treaties looks to be back on the Senate agenda. Again.
The momentum is building. Scott Borgeson at the Council on Foreign Relations released a report last week that comprehensively makes the case for U.S. accession to the Law of the Sea Convention. I confess I’ve only given it a quick skim, but I did notice it hits on all the key points.
Sen. Kerry said last week that he’s “gotta get that done.” I’m hearing he’d like to start Committee work in June (presumably, the goal would be to have the whole thing wrapped up by August). Joining the Convention could not happen a moment too soon.
President Obama and Hilary Clinton watched the treaty languish in the Senate even though there were more than enough votes to get it through. They have to know that passive support from the President is not enough to move a major multilateral treaty. Obama is going to need to really dig in to make this happen.
Fortunately, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t or won’t. The Convention fits nicely into his agenda of reestablishing America’s commitment to a balanced national security strategy and the rule of law. Republicans, for their part, will see their caucus splintered over the Convention if they decide to hold it up. The conservative wing of their party cannot afford another loss that highlights its commitment to dead dogma over the national interest.
Since this is much more interesting than my law school finals, I’m going to be watching this closely as it moves forward and I’ll be sure to update. I’m also keeping an eye on the Koh confirmation process (if you want to follow it closely, Charlie Brown’s been doing yeoman’s work tracking the story thus far). One last thing: I’m doing some work for the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) this summer on a campaign to get warring parties to compensate civilians for the harm they’ve caused. It’s a lot more legalese and a lot less “grand strategy” than readers here are used to, but internalizing the human costs of war is a pretty humane and commonsense step that states should take at a pretty low cost.
More on all this soon.
— Scott Paul
Note: Greenwire is tracking Kerry’s Law of the Sea plans too. More there.


3 comments on “Kerry to Move Soon on Law of the Sea

  1. Informed Lawyer says:

    Rather than seeking a window to move the UNCLOS to a floor vote, Senator Kerry should make a concerted effort to respect his constituents, which include not only residents of Massachusetts, but the US at large. They have a constitutionally guaranteed ‘right to know’ what is contained in the environmental portion of the UNCLOS, which comprises approximately 1/3 of the 200 page treaty.
    Kerry’s failure to heed the American public’s right to know reflects his disdain for the American people and the US Constitution which, as a Senator, he has taken an oath of office to support.
    That is why concerned citizens have taken it upon themselves to research and report about the treaty’s more than 45 environmental provisions, regulations, protocols and annexes. Arguably, a number of committees within the House and Senate possess the requisite oversight jurisdiction to review, explain and assess the impact of these provisions upon US constitutionally guaranteed private property rights, US national economic and technological security, US military preparedness, and US sovereignty.
    “What Goes Around, Comes Around: How UNCLOS Ratification Will Herald Europe’s Precautionary Principle as US Law”, an authorized pre-publication advance copy of an article that will appear in the forthcoming issue of the Santa Clara Journal of International Law.
    It is accessible on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) at:


  2. Mr.Murder says:

    Piracy concerns produced suitable pressure. Major items at stake include offshore rights with Cuba and Russia in waters we respectively share with either.
    How does this affect long standing policy for Carribean refugees, etc. in their standing here? Has this changed dramatically from the post 9-11 policy, how does either of the past four terms differ?


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