Law of the Sea Treaty's Defeat a Victory for American National Sovereignty
The defeat of the Law of the Sea Treaty is a victory for those properly concerned with American national sovereignty. There was much to support in the treaty - the U.S. Navy, for example, liked its declaration of customary rules on the right of the free passage of ships, and it was the support of the military, I think, that convinced most of the Republican Secretaries of State to press for its ratification.
But those interested in national sovereignty were a bit more concerned about the rules of navigation, where it is really the power of the U.S. Navy, rather than parchment barriers, that keep the sea lanes open to all. Conservatives also opposed the treaty's creation of a new international bureaucracy that would give out property rights to the seabed, collect taxes, and redistribute income (and technology) to poorer countries. It was a welfare state for the oceans. In my recent book, Taming Globalization, I warn of the ways that the rise of global governance schemes such as the Law of the Sea will conflict with the demands of national sovereignty as expressed in our Constitution.
As the European experiment in global governance is collapsing, the United States was prudent to reserve judgment on the Law of the Sea and not ratify now.
Congratulations should go to Senator Jon Kyl, who is the leading voice in the Senate (and the Republican Party as a whole) in defense of American sovereignty from entangling schemes of global governance. In fact, at a recent AEI event, Senator Kyl offered a compromise to make the Law of the Sea consistent with our sovereignty by enacting a statute to adopt the rules of navigation but keep out the redistributive efforts over seabed property rights. But the forces for the treaty would brook no compromise, and gambled for everything or nothing. They got nothing.
Senator Kyl's retirement at the end of this year is a sore loss for the defense of American sovereignty. But I can think of no better going-away present his colleagues could have given him than yesterday's decision on the Law of the Sea Treaty.