When former president Ronald Reagan declined to enter America into the United Nations’ Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST), it seemed the debate over regulating the world’s oceans at the global level had ended, at least for the duration of his leadership.
Under former President Bill Clinton’s watch, this treaty was then amended, supposedly to reflect the concerns of many in politics who found aspects of the document threatening to U.S. sovereignty. Defenders of U.S. sovereignty in Congress, such as Sen. Jesse Helms, found these so-called revisions laughable, though, and successfully prevented ratification from occurring, saving America in the process from placing yet another U.N. albatross about her neck.
Fast-forward to February 2004. Sen. Helms is gone and in his place as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee is Sen. Richard Lugar from Indiana. Lugar is responsible for pushing the Law of the Sea Treaty, dormant for years, through his committee with a 19-0 vote and toward the full Senate floor for ratification.
But here’s where the Gipper can claim a win: Constituent outcry with the many anti-constitutional provisions of this treaty has escalated to such an extent that a House committee took the unusual step of holding hearings on this proposed U.N. partnership on May 12. What’s strange about this occurrence is that the House side of Congress has absolutely no formal voice in deciding whether a treaty achieves U.S. ratification.
The president “shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two-thirds of the senators present concur,” Article Two, Section Two of the Constitution reads.
H. International Relations Committee Chair Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), in a move that seemed to surprise and frustrate Lugar, nonetheless heard testimony on LOST, in part he said to prepare and educate members in case ratification ensued, since treaty appropriations requests would have to flow through this side of Congress.
Lugar, it seems, is less than pleased with this latest twist to LOST fate.
In a statement submitted as part of the official record for Hyde’s hearing, Lugar expressed puzzlement that treaty ratification has been delayed, given the broad support for this measure from the administration, environmentalists, the State Dept., the U.S. Navy and the oil industry, and given that his committee reportedly only received one letter of opposition when LOST was re-introduced for debate this February.
“…Senate consideration of the treaty has been held up for more than two months by vague and unfounded concerns about the Convention’s effects,” Lugar wrote. “These concerns have been expressed primarily by those who oppose virtually any multi-lateral agreements. Many of the arguments they have made are patently untrue.”
Untrue, for instance, Lugar alluded, are views of those like Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, who told H. International Relations Committee members that “LOST will have a number of adverse implications for U.S. security interests and the national commonwealth more generally.”
Gaffney wondered publicly, for instance, how America might preserve her economic and military powers after entering into an agreement that regulates activities on 70 percent of the world’s surface, the seas, with a global force that usually displays an “ill-conceived hostility” toward our nation. Such hostile nations, Gaffney continued, often “use agreements like LOST as part of a Lilliputian-like strategy to constrain our sovereignty and strength and redistribute the industrial world’s wealth — and ours — to undeveloped states.”
Untrue to Lugar, too, must be beliefs like those of former Ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick, who testified previously to the Sen. Armed Services Committee that U.S. ratification of this treaty not only compromises America’s sovereign ability to traverse and mine or drill the seas absent U.N. oversight, but also jeopardizes our nation’s freedom to access the air and space above these waters.
But poor Lugar. The injustices done this treaty via false witnessing during four separate April and May hearings have raged uncontrollably, he must believe.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Kan.) questioned an aspect of the treaty that gives participating nations the right to decline vessel searches if those on board claimed their sea travels were related to economic rather than military activity. What that means is the United States cannot board a suspect vessel without first receiving the permission of U.N. authorities, even if our intelligence finds a security threat exists.
Rep. Thomas Tancredo (R-Col.) asked H. International Relations Committee witnesses in support of LOST why, if the United States were already informally abiding the very same protocols and laws of the sea this Law of the Sea Treaty solidifies with binding language — as these two witnesses testified — we even needed to participate in the treaty and risk that opponents’ concerns might one day become reality.
And Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), during this same committee hearing, went one step further. Why, he wondered, does the Unted States suddenly need U.N. regulation over the seas when individual nations have successfully overseen and decided matters in these areas for decades?
Good points all, it might logically follow — except for the pesky matter of those inherent untruths that Lugar claims permeate all such arguments and concerns. Guess all these Gippers floating around lately haven’t a clue about such heady matters as the Constitution and sovereignty, individual rights and American freedoms, and best pipe down and not bother the internationalists with these petty concerns.
Cheryl K. Chumley
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