Tuesday, July 31, 2012

FIDLEY WATCH: Independence

With a (symbolic) unanimous vote, the Seattle City Council on May 29th decided to oppose the development of all future coal export terminals within the Pacific Northwest, saying that the “at least half-dozen
proposals” in development would cause too much environmental damage.

“This goes against what we stand for from a climate change standpoint,” councilman Mike O’Brien said regarding the proposed terminals.

One estimate says that if all the facilities are built, they’d move at least 100 million tons of coal annually throughout the Pacific Northwest and bring hundreds of jobs to the area, as well as much needed tax revenue to local governments.

While Seattle is the largest city so far to formally oppose building coal terminals, it has no actual power to influence the terminal development, and none of the proposed terminals is anywhere near Seattle.

There may be elected officials in cities across the US who are less engaged in the performance of their mandated duties than the Seattle City Council, but none can possibly be as proud to demonstrate that shortfall to their constituents.

Now imagine a group more than 21 times larger than the Seattle City Council that actually has the power to make and enforce international law, and you get an idea of how the 193 member states of the UN would administer US resources under the Law of the Sea treaty.

Last month the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial signed by five former Secretaries of State – Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, James Baker III, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice – who were hoping to persuade readers that the US should ratify the Law of the Sea treaty, formally known as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

UNCLOS has been percolating in the UN since 1956, largely as an employment program for bureaucrats seeking to aid in the redistribution of the world’s wealth through central planning. Whatever reasons the current signatories have for jumping aboard don’t apply to the US, which, has good reasons not to.

As Ronald Reagan said in 1978, no national interest of ours “could justify handing sovereign control of two-thirds of the Earth’s surface over to the Third World.” By advocating for US ratification, the aforementioned Secretaries would do just that, and worse. Their endorsement of UNCLOS would have:

Russia determining where we can run our icebreakers across the Arctic.

China should having a say in how container ships cross the ocean, and whether their routes take them closer to US ports or those of our Canadian or Mexican rivals.

Saudi Arabia helping decide whether we can explore for oil in the Chuchki Sea.

Iran helping determine how we deploy our Navy.

The Norwegians, Japanese and Russians controlling our fisheries.

In 1983, President Reagan proclaimed the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the United States of America within an Exclusive Economic Zone, extending 200 nautical miles from the shoreline. (That same year, perhaps not coincidentally, Richard H. Philips started this magazine to serve those vessels, companies and families that were economically advantaged by the President’s proclamation.)

The United States is unique in many ways, but foremost is our generous seacoast, which gives us access to trading partners across the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic Ocean, as well as the international waters of the Great Lakes. US ratification of UNCLOS would cede management of our most valuable asset – our maritime port infrastructure and access – to a disparate group of countries, many of which are landlocked and most of which do not have our best interests at heart.

This month we celebrate our independence from a ruler who wished to impose his will on us from across the sea. Why would we give away that for which our forefathers fought so bravely?

Ratification of UNCLOS would be a huge mistake for our country, and one that would be difficult to undo. A cursory glance at another well-known collaboration, the Euro, should be all the incentive this country needs to stay well away
from UNCLOS.

Chris Philips, Managing Editor