Build More Ships or Hire More Lawyers?

Howard Salter of Citizens for Global Solutions supports immediate ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), saying that, “The President, the military, environmental groups, all major ocean industries and key Senators on both sides of the aisle support the treaty.” He says opponents of the measure are “out of the mainstream.” But if the true facts about Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS) were given to many of those supporting the treaty, you might see support for UNCLOS quickly fade away. 

Salter’s CGS, the new name for the old World Federalist Association, favors world government backed by a standing United Nations military force, eclipsing the power of the U.S. Armed Forces. Has this suddenly become the “mainstream” view?

Our military leaders might be interested to know that CGS, whose leaders in the World Federalist Movement actually wrote and lobbied for UNCLOS over the course of many years, also wants to ratify the International Criminal Court treaty. This body, now in existence, is being pressured to indict U.S. military officials and throw them in prison for “war crimes” in Iraq and elsewhere.

UNCLOS represents another dramatic expansion of the power of the United Nations, this time over seven tenths of the world’s surface, the oceans.

So why does the U.S. military favor the pact?  It is not as much of a mystery as some might think. In a column headlined “U.S. Naval Power Waves,” Dr. John CK Daly notes that Russia, China and others are “preparing to contest America’s previously unchallenged ‘command of the sea.’” Daly writes that the growth of other nations’ Naval forces in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific “represents a dynamic strategic shift in the naval balance of power” and could “seriously erode the Pentagon’s current monopoly of naval air power there.”

The numbers are shocking. The U.S. has declined from 594 ships under President Reagan to only 276 today.

This has provided the rationale for the Pentagon, led by Navy and Coast Guard officials, to argue that UNCLOS may provide some protection. The thinking is that a fleet of paper from the U.N. is better than a massive shipbuilding program which may never materialize. 

Making a pitch for UNCLOS at the American Enterprise Institute on July 17, Susan Biniaz of the State Department let the truth slip out. “We don’t have the capacity to be challenging every maritime claim throughout the world solely through the use of naval power. And [we] certainly can’t use the Navy to meet all the economic interests,” she said.

But one has to question how the U.S. can remain a superpower by passing a treaty and hiring more lawyers to defend America before international panels and tribunals.

The Pentagon, of course, has its share of international lawyers, and they have been pushing the treaty. One of them, Navy Commander James Kraska, last year paid tribute to the late Harvard Law Professor Louis Sohn, whose classic work World Peace Through World Law provided a detailed blueprint for transforming the U.N. into a world government. Sohn is widely acknowledged to have played a critical role in drafting UNCLOS.  

In World Peace Through World Law, Sohn  proposed a “United Nations Ocean Authority” that would eventually be expressed in UNCLOS as the International Seabed Authority, a vehicle to control vast areas of the oceans beyond the authority of sovereign states.  It will collect payments from U.S. corporations, a form of global tax.

Sohn, who had served as a consultant and counselor to the State Department, ended his government career as a delegate to the Law of the Sea Convention after President Reagan took office. Reagan believed the delegation had given short shrift to U.S. interests and  announced on July 9, 1982, that the U.S. could not accept the pact and would not be a party to it.

His U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick was still rejecting UNCLOS, even after the international lawyers were saying that it had been “fixed” by a dubious side agreement. Reagan’s Attorney General, Edwin Meese, says Reagan would still oppose the measure.