Time for Law of the Sea

Via Scott Paul at The Washington Note, Senator John Kerry, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, seems primed to make a concerted push to finally ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Law of the Sea treaty, with proponents on both sides of the aisle, from environmentalist groups and oil industries, in the science and the business communities, and both this president and the last one, is probably the biggest no-brainer of a treaty ever to be stalled by a vocal (and misguided) minority (treaties affirming basic rights for children notwithstanding).

The issue, it seems, is timing; and this doesn’t look like just another legislative excuse, either:

The Republicans who oppose the treaty would likely use Senate procedure to prolong the debate, meaning it could take up to a week of floor time. Indeed, one of the more vocal opponents of the treaty, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), said in an interview this week that he would “do all I could” to block the measure if it came to the Senate floor.

“It’s called sovereignty. We seem to be in such a hurry to give up our sovereignty to multinational organizations; the Law of the Sea certainly fits into that,” Inhofe said.

Well, in short, no, it doesn’t. Law of the Sea in no way impinges U.S. sovereignty. If anything, it comes quite close to the opposite; ratifying the Law of the Sea allows the United States to claim rights in the Arctic, which other parties to the treaty are snapping up faster than the ice up there is melting. What Inhofe — and the United States, if it still does not ratify the treaty — is missing is that the Law of the Sea would effectively increase U.S. sovereignty, not detract from it.  And there’s little time left to seize the opportunity.

Scott optimistically thinks that Republicans won’t be able to mount too much of an opposition because they “cannot afford another loss that highlights its commitment to dead dogma over the national interest.” I’d like to think so, too, but the tried-and-true dogmatic canard used by Law of Sea opponents for over two decades — the same sovereignty abrogation claim mouthed by Inhofe — remains politically powerful. If Inhofe’s cadre of Republicans unwisely chooses to take this up opposition to this popular treaty as a cause, they may not have a leg to stand on, but we can be sure that they will holler.

(image from flickr user Center for American Progress Action Fund under a Creative Commons license)

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