The UNCLOS Battle

At the Heritage Foundation’s in house blog, Andrew Grossman admits ignorance to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Nothing wrong about that–you have to be fairly plugged in to know what the Convention is all about.

The problem is, he looks to Doug Bandow for enlightenment. Bandow, you may recall, was the syndicated columnist who resigned from CATO last year after it was revealed he was secretly on the take from Jack Abramoff, who paid Bandow $2,000 per column to shill on behalf of his clients. Bandow was picked up by an outfit called the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which apparently does not mind if one its “experts” used to accept cash to promote the clients of a now convicted felon.

Meanwhile, over at the Washington Note, Scott Paul offers some smart commentary on what is really at stake with the UNCLOS ratification battle:

The conventional wisdom is that multilateral treaties are dead on arrival in the Senate. If we’re interested in promoting the International Criminal Court, a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, or the Conventions on women’s rights, children’s rights, landmines, or biological diversity, we’ve got to get the Law of the Sea done.

My colleague Don Kraus sums it up:

“Think about it. If a Senate with a Democratic majority can not muster the 66 votes to pass a treaty supported by a Republican president, what is the possibility of doing so under a potential Democratic president who will face much stiffer Republican opposition?

“If the U.S, cannot join an agreement supported by environmental groups, petroleum trade associations, peace groups, the Coast Guard, Navy, departments of State, Commerce, and the Interior (just to name a few) — what is the chance that we engage on other agreements?

“One senate staffer I talked to recently has been yelling at groups coming to talk with him about climate change. He’s been telling them that he doesn’t want to talk to them unless the first words out of their mouth are “Law of the Sea,” because “if we can’t get this one through, none of the other agreements are going to get through.”

The stars are aligning on UNCLOS’ behalf. As Scott and Don like to say UNCLOS is “low hanging fruit.” Perhaps this helps explain why folks like Bandow and Frank Gaffney are on a mission to make UNCLOS into a boogey monster. (To wit: this ad, flagged by Matt Yglesias, from “America’s Survivial,” which is an outfit dedicated to opposing international treaties.) The stakes are high for the knee-jerk anti-UN crowd. UNCLOS’ wide support from diverse constituencies could mean ratification. And from there it is only a slippery slope to the moment when UN tax collectors come knocking at their door the United States becomes more positively engaged in multilateral institutions that advance American interests by promoting the rule of law.