Dick Lugar just hit one out of the park on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee made a noble effort to get UNCLOS through the Senate three years ago, only to be blocked by Senators Frist and Inhofe. Lugar issued a statement today that gracefully deconstructs some of the more hideous mischaracterizations of the treaty and makes a powerful case for U.S. accession.
The President is expected to make a statement on UNCLOS very soon, so stay tuned. When he does, it will set in motion a process that will be extremely embarrassing for the 10-20 out of touch senators who oppose the Law of the Sea.
The zinger quote:
We’ve been a free rider on this treaty for too long. At a time when the United States is being criticized by friends and foes alike as either a Lone Ranger or worse, an arrogant bully, we can demonstrate that we believe international cooperation, done right, can serve America’s interests. By embracing a treaty that we championed and that improves our national security, we can help counter the prejudices that America is an unreliable partner or a threat to world order.
The full statement is below the fold.
Lugar should be applauded for his leadership here, as well as three years ago, when he nearly got UNCLOS passed without a presidential statement and in the face of an energized opposition within his own party. In comparison, it’s clear sailing for Senator Biden now. There will be no excuse for missing this golden opportunity.
I’m headed to a Law of the Sea strategy session later today, so I should have more soon.
— Scott Paul
STATEMENT BY DICK LUGAR ON THE LAW OF THE SEA TREATY
May 15, 2007
An Overdue Step to Greater Security
By Richard G. Lugar
The Senate this year has an opportunity to plug a large hole in our national security structure by approving the Law of the Sea treaty. I have urged President Bush and my colleagues in the Senate to act soon before election year politics or a crowded Senate schedule once again scuttles the chances for this vital international agreement, which has for years been stalled in unnecessary controversy.
The treaty, formally known as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, was conceived during the Cold War as a way to protect vital U.S. national security, maritime and environmental interests from encroachment by the Soviet Union and by assertive developing countries. The lengthy and complex negotiations–involving more than 140 nations–were a triumph of American diplomacy.
Our negotiators won guarantees that U.S. warships and merchant vessels can pass freely off any coast, through all the oceans’ strategic chokepoints and even through the sea lanes of foreign archipelagos, like Indonesia and The Philippines. These guarantees, which in most cases include over-flight rights as well, are vital to our national defense. They ensure our Navy ships and submarines can navigate freely, that our cargo vessels and tankers have access to all the world’s sea lanes, and that we can control the vast riches up to 200 miles off our shores, including the huge schools of fish in the ocean and the oil and gas that lie beneath it.
We scored big wins in other areas, too: our oil and fishing industries got important rights and protections, and the treaty’s anti-pollution and natural resource provisions are so thorough that the Law of the Sea has been called “the strongest comprehensive environmental treaty now in existence.”
As the head of the Ocean Conservancy at the time, Roger Rufe, told a 2003 Senate hearing, the treaty requires all parties “to protect and preserve the marine environment, and to conserve marine living species.”
Yet even though the United States obeys the treaty and gets many benefits from it, we’ve been so far shut out of its policy-making bodies and, in a larger sense, we’ve forfeited our unchallenged world leadership in oceans policy. That’s why ratification has the support of the Pentagon and the Navy, as well as President Bush. Both the energy industry and environmentalists are enthusiastic supporters.
However, ideological posturing and flat-out misrepresentations by a handful of amateur admirals have sought to cast a shadow over the treaty by suggesting that we are turning over our sovereignty to the United Nations. Their criticisms simply don’t hold water.
Ratifying the treaty will do nothing to change the status quo with respect to U.S. intelligence and submarine activities in the territorial seas of other countries: we’ll continue to operate under the same rules we’ve relied on for more than 40 years. Nor will we have to submit disputes over traditional uses of the sea to a United Nations tribunal. Under treaty terms we fought for, any such dispute involving the United States will be sent to arbitration before judges that we help pick.
Equally important, our negotiators made sure that under the treaty our military activities at sea have special protection and are not subject to challenge by other countries in court. To be doubly certain, the Bush administration wisely took advantage of the Treaty’s rules for making clarifying declarations and has specified explicitly that we alone define what constitute “military activities” not subject to review.
The most baffling charge is that somehow we’ll be required to give away sensitive military technology. The convention mandates no such thing. This criticism hasn’t been valid since the Reagan administration, when the treaty was first completed. President Reagan refused to sign it because of technology transfer provisions and other problems in the section on deep-seabed mining. Later, a hard-fought renegotiation led to changes that met all of President Reagan’s demands. We don’t have to give away any technology to anybody.
Failure to move now could directly hurt American interests. Russia has, under terms of the treaty, laid claim to stretches of the Arctic Ocean, hoping to lock up potential oil and gas reserves which could become more accessible as climate change shrinks the polar ice cap. Unless the United States ratifies the treaty, Moscow will be able to press its claims without an American at the table.
Moreover, the treaty, in effect since 1994, is now open for amendment. With America on the outside looking in, other countries could try to undo our hard-won gains, and we wouldn’t have a vote. We would also be left out of the decisions further developing regional and global rules on the ocean environment.
But there is a larger issue as well. We’ve been a free rider on this treaty for too long. At a time when the United States is being criticized by friends and foes alike as either a Lone Ranger or worse, an arrogant bully, we can demonstrate that we believe international cooperation, done right, can serve America’s interests. By embracing a treaty that we championed and that improves our national security, we can help counter the prejudices that America is an unreliable partner or a threat to world order.
In 2004, the Treaty stalled on the Senate floor even after the Foreign Relations Committee voted to approve it. This year, the new Senate leadership should work with President Bush to take an overdue step toward stronger national security by ratifying this treaty.