Why Do So Many Conservative Groups Oppose the LOS Treaty?

Part of the answer can be found in the section on “Who Opposes the LOS Treaty.” The important point is that the opposition of these organizations is a significant factor. A previously noted, the LOS Treaty was revised with an “Implementing Agreement” and it was signed by the United States in October of 1994.
The Treaty did not proceed to ratification a decade ago because the concerns outlined by the conservative groups were also cited by the then Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC). Helms never allowed the Treaty to come before his panel.
The Bush Administration said LOS was an “urgent national priority” in 2001, but this still did not sway Helms. The North Carolina Republican retired in January of 2003, and the LOS Treaty proceeded to public hearings and unanimously passed the Foreign Relations Committee the next year.
The best presentation of the conservative arguments against the LOS Treaty was made on February 18, 2005 at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Several of the right wing groups held a press conference on that day and they released a joint letter from 27 organizations (see below) indicating they were “strongly opposed” to ratification.
The Chairman of the American Conservative Union, David A. Keene, told the press gathering, “The conservative movement is opposed to the Law of the Sea Treaty and to the Administration’s support of the treaty.” Columnist Pat Buchanan said the treaty is “intolerable” and “I cannot understand how any conservative who believes in the sovereignty of this country and its continued independence can sign on to a treaty that constructs a new world order.”
The joint letter emphasized President Reagan’s 1982 opposition. The old arguments were repeated, such as, “The U.S. would be committed to transfer potentially militarily relevant technology to possibly unfriendly hands.” They also mentioned “production limits on seabed minerals.” Both of those provisions from the original text were eliminated in the renegotiation a decade ago.
Strangely, the opponents claimed the 1994 “Implementing Agreement” had no impact on the Treaty. All of Reagan’s concerns were rectified by the 1994 amendments to Part XI. Practically all of the right wing groups say the Treaty “would levy taxes on Americans, a first in the history of multilateral institutions.”
The letter additionally claims the LOS Treaty will threaten America’s ability to collect security intelligence at sea. “We believe that LOST will act as a brake on vital U.S. activity such as President Bush’s Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), not a lubricant.” The PSI allows the interdiction of maritime WMD activity, and both the Bush Administration and the military have responded by saying the PSI and all other intelligence activities will not be hampered. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Chief of Naval Operations have both said unequivocally that U.S. ratification of Law of the Sea would help the PSI.
Many of the conservative organizations in opposition to LOS are far removed from the mainstream of the Republican Party. The anti-LOS Congressional Resolution that they are promoting, H. Con. Res. 56, only has four co-sponsoring lawmakers: Reps. Ron Paul (R-TX), John Duncan (R-TN), Scott Garrett (R-NY) and Jo Ann Davis (R-VA).
Most of the groups and lawmakers who are against the LOS Treaty are weary of all multilateral organizations. They oppose U.S. membership in the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Bank.
As the recent Iraq oil-for-food scandal demonstrated, there has been significant corruption, waste, fraud, anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism at the UN. America reduced its annual dues in the 1990s and demanded major reforms. There is no American lawmaker that we are aware of who advocates placing the United Nations Charter ahead of the U.S. Constitution.
Advocating reform at the UN is a mainstream viewpoint, but a significant number of these groups want America to completely end its membership in the UN and practically all of the multilateral organizations. Conservative heroes such as Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater, Bob Dole, Newt Gingrich and George W. Bush, never advocated this viewpoint.
Many of the anti-LOS groups describe themselves as “paleocons,” which they define as an organization which has isolationist and protectionist sentiments. The rhetoric of libertarian Ron Paul and paleocons Pat Buchanan and Howard Phillips on foreign policy issues is very similar to that of liberal activist Michael Moore.
As the chart below demonstrates, all of these groups are against the LOS Treaty, but they also oppose Operation Iraqi Freedom as well as the U.S. role in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990’s to stop “ethnic cleansing” and genocide:
* Indicates opposition to Operation Iraqi Freedom
** Indicates opposition to renewal of the Patriot Act
*** Indicates opposition to NATO campaign to stop ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosovo
Doug Bandow (Cato Institute) * ** ***
Pat Buchanan (American Cause) * ** ***
David Keene (American Conservative Union) ** ***
Joseph Farah (WorldNetDaily.com)** ***
William Norman Grigg (New American Magazine) * ** ***
Jack McManus (John Birch Society) * ** ***
Oliver North (Freedom Alliance) ***
Bob Novak (Chicago Sun Times) * ** ***
Rep. Ron Paul (Liberty Caucus) * ** ***
Howard Phillips (Conservative Caucus) * ** ***
Pat Robertson (Christian Broadcast Network) ***
Phyllis Schlafly (Eagle Forum)** ***
Paul Weyrich (Free Congress Foundation) ** ***


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