Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Will ITLOSe?

In a Halloween post available here (scroll down to the nicely named "Trick or Treaty?"), our Opinio Juris colleague Duncan Hollis predicted smooth sailing in the U.S. Senate for the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, about which we too have posted. 'Fraid he might be mistaken.
True, the Foreign Relations Committee has voted "aye" by a 17-4 margin -- more progress than the 1982 Convention, which entered into force in 1994 and now has 155 states parties, ever has made in the United States. (History of U.S. involvement in negotiating the treaty and thereafter here.)
Yet as noted in a comment by our colleague Andreas L. Paulus, University of Göttingen, Germany, at least 1 Republican foresees failure in the full Senate. "This treaty will not be adopted. There aren't the votes to pass it," Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) told the Associated Press. Echoing him in the same story was Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who's declared: "I am absolutely convinced it undermines U.S. sovereignty."
Lott's not alone in sounding the sovereignty alarm.
Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee's called U.S. involvement in the treaty "'the dumbest thing we've ever done,'" and staked out treaty defeat as "'[o]ne of the defining issues of our time,'" Gail Collins reports in the New York Times. A quick Google search suggests that Huckabee has a corner of the virtual world on his side. What's more, Collins writes, many of Huckabee's rivals for the Republican nomination are falling in line with him, notwithstanding that the treaty's supported by the United States' Defense Department, the State Department, and incumbent President.
Might be time to run up that stormy weather flag.

1 comment:

CaitlynA said...

I know a few people thought that Senate approval of the LOS Convention would be a snap once President Bush sent his letter of support to the Senate - and perhaps it would have if Bush had acted in March instead of May and Senator Biden had convened hearings in early June instead of late September, but no one who has watched this in the past seriously believed it would be a cakewalk.

The ratification of the Law of the Sea Convention is a contest between those who believe in an international order structured around the rule of law and those who believe that the United States is and forevermore will be a hegemonic power that, by that right, can determine which international laws it will follow and which it won't.

A perfect example was given recently in the Wall Street Journal when the editors complained that the Convention would prohibit US submarines from operating submerged and unannounced in the territorial seas of other countries. In fact, the US signed on to this provisions in the 1958 Geneva Convention on the Territorial Sea, to which we are still party, and the 1982 Convention simply repeats that restriction. Now the editors didn't say, but I think it is safe to assume that they would not approve of Russian, Cuban or Chinese submarines sneaking through our own territorial sea and into our bays and harbors, and if that is the case, then opponents of the Convention reject the reciprocal nature of international law just as they apparently believe that the US need not be bound by agreements it has already ratified.

Of course a handful of Washington-based think tanks with connections to masses of acolytes on the internet can win out over rational analysts and proponents of the rule of law - but only if those analysts and proponents sit on their hands and let that happen. This issue isn't the LOS Convention alone, it is the role of the United States in an international order that respects the rule of law and in which nations honor the agreements that they join. One's position on the LOS Convention is an indicator of where they stand on that larger issue.