This is the letter sent to Senator John Kerry by a number of retired senior military leaders regarding the Law Of The Sea Treaty:
June 14, 2012
Hon. John Kerry
444 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-0802
Dear Chairman Kerry:
Much is being made at the moment of the support of the U.S. military for the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which is better known as the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST). In your Foreign Relations Committee hearings to date, you have invited testimony from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and six other serving four-star commanders. We wish respectfully to challenge the perception that military personnel uniformly support this accord by expressing our strongly held belief that LOST’s ratification would prove inimical both to the national security interests and sovereignty of the United States.
This conclusion is ineluctable given five facts about the Law of the Sea Treaty:
- President Ronald Reagan recognized that the terms and institutional arrangements inherent in the treaty—including, but not limited to, seabed mining—were adverse to this country insofar as they were intended and designed to establish and empower a supranational government. For these reasons, he refused to sign this accord. And, as his Counselor and Attorney General, Edwin Meese, has observed, those defects continue to afflict LOST—despite suggestions to the contrary, based on false claims that a separate agreement signed by some but not all LOST signatories satisfactorily addressed Mr. Reagan’s concerns.
- There is already ample reason for Americans—in and out of uniform—to be leery of entrusting more power and authority to the United Nations. Yet, our membership in LOST would dangerously empower that organization. After all, this treaty creates an executive, legislature and judiciary that are supposed to govern seventy-percent of the world’s surface. And LOST’s institutions are intertwined with the UN system and would be capable of raising revenues. Given the UN track record of corruption and hostility to America and its allies, it would be reckless to endorse such arrangements, let alone subject ourselves to them.
- Of particular concern is the obligation under LOST to submit any and all disputes to binding arbitration or judicial action by entities that are inherently rigged against us. The treaty’s expansive mandate is so broad—involving virtually anything affecting the world’s oceans—that it is an invitation to UN and other nations’ interference in our affairs on an unprecedented scale.
- That prospect has particular implications for the national security were the United States to become a party to the Law of the Sea Treaty. As such, we would be required to make myriad commitments at odds with our military practices and national interests. These include agreeing to reserve the oceans exclusively for “peaceful purposes.” Contentions that we need not worry about such formal commitments because we, as a maritime nation with a powerful navy, are not expected to be bound by them will surely prove unfounded.
- The same is certain to apply to assurances that the exemption of “military activities” will preclude LOST from having harmful effects on our armed forces and their necessary operations on, over, under and from the seas. Since the treaty does not include an agreed definition of what constitutes such activities, disputes are sure to arise—disputes we will be obliged to resolve through one LOST mechanism or another. [In the attachment, Judge Advocate General Captain Vince Averna (USN, Ret.) lays out a number of the treaty’s provisions that may invite such challenges.]
One example of how untenable such assurances will prove can be found in the area of anti-submarine warfare (ASW). Of necessity, ASW training to be effective must necessarily replicate actual combat operations and thus involve the periodic use of high-power sonars and explosives. Unfortunately, some assert that these training activities cause harm to ocean wildlife, like dolphins and whales, and have sought to use judicial means to restrict or preclude them.
We must, therefore, recall that, during the Clinton administration, Secretary of State Warren Christopher called LOST “the strongest comprehensive environmental treaty now in existence or likely to emerge for quite some time.” That being the case, the U.S. armed forces must reckon with the prospect that what they consider to be essential and exempted military activities will be treated under LOST as environmental predation very much within the jurisdiction of its Tribunal and arbitration panels. The effect of adverse rulings, especially if enforced by federal judges, could prove devastating to our power projection and other defense capabilities.
For all these reasons (among others), it is our considered professional military judgment that the United States should remain unencumbered by state-party status in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea—free to observe those provisions we chose to and unencumbered by the others. We have demonstrated in the three decades since President Reagan refused to sign LOST that as a non-party great power we can exercise great and essential influence on matters involving the oceans without being relegated to one vote among 160-plus, obliged to abide by the will and whims of a generally hostile majority without the benefit of a veto to protect American national interests. There is no basis for contending that we will be better off if we have a so-called “seat at the table” under such circumstances.
We hope our insights and conclusions will be made part of the record of your Committee’s deliberations on this matter and would welcome an opportunity to participate in such deliberations if that would be helpful to you and your colleagues.
Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin, USA (Ret.)
Former Commanding General, U.S. Army Special Forces Command;
Former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence
Adm. Thomas B. Hayward, USN (Ret.)
Former Chief of Naval Operations
Adm. G.E.R. Kinnear II, USN (Ret.)
Former U.S. Member of the NATO Military Committee
Gen. Richard L. Lawson, USAF (Ret.)
Former Deputy Commander-in Chief, Headquarters U.S. European Command
Adm. James “Ace” Lyons, Jr., USN (Ret.)
Former Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet
Lt. Gen. Thomas G. McInerney, USAF (Ret.)
Former Assistant Vice Chief of Staff, USAF
Vice Adm. Robert Monroe, USN (Ret.)
Former Director of Navy Research, Development Testing and Evaluation
Gen. Carl E. Mundy, Jr., USMC (Ret.)
Former Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps
Adm. Leighton “Snuffy” Smith, USN (Ret.)
Former Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Navy Forces Europe and
NATO Allied Forces Southern Europe
cc: Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee