Will the Law of the Sea Treaty Sink the U.S. Navy?
Jeremy Rabkin, a long time critic of contemporary international law and institutions, has a more detailed and persuasive attack on the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea in this week’s Weekly Standard than his previous joint op-ed with Jack Goldsmith some weeks back. As the U.S. Senate gears up for ratification hearings, Rabkin’s voice will no doubt be heard. His main objection is to UNCLOS’s dispute settlement provisions, which he believes will unduly threaten the U.S. Navy’s freedom on the seas to protect U.S. national interests. Here is a key graf:
In past centuries, rules about the conduct of ships at sea emerged from agreements among major naval powers, and there were always a number of naval powers engaged in challenging, enforcing, and accommodating agreed-upon standards. Now, when the United States (by some estimates) actually deploys a majority of the world’s naval capacity, we are told that our security requires us to participate with 150 other states in electing international judges to determine, in the last analysis, what rules our Navy must accept.
To find this convincing, one must be awed by the moral authority of the U.N. majority. To think that way means that we seek consensus at almost any price. Why do we claim to be independent, why do we invest so many billions in defense capacities, if we are prepared to go along with an international consensus, articulated (and -readjusted) by international jurists? The Senate should think long and hard before making the U.S. Navy answer to the U.N version of the Law of the Sea.