According to Senator Joseph Biden (D-Del.) the Law of the Sea Convention (United Nations Convention on the Law of The Sea) — UNCLOS — codifies navigational rights and freedom on the oceans. Presumably this international law will strengthen our hand in dealing with foreign nations that challenge our application of recognized navigational rules.
Senator Biden is also convinced — as are many of his colleagues — that UNCLOS protects the commercial interests of the United States and sovereign rights over resources 200 nautical miles from our coastlines. What Senator Biden, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, neglects to point out is that with this law the U.N. becomes the effective executor of all disputes on the high seas.
Assuming America's national interests can be protected by the United Nations is analogous to a belief that eunuchs can impose their will on titans.
At this time the U.N. is the embodiment of anti-American sentiment. There isn't any U.S. initiative from Iraq to a confrontation with radical Islam that is embraced by the U.N., even though the American delegation has consistently sought U.N. approval for every action.
Since the body created by UNCLOS has 21 members, many hostile to American positions, what will happen when U.S. interests collide with decisions by the UNCLOS adjudication body? If we ignore a negative judgment, world opinion will be arrayed against the United States. If we agree with a negative judgment, we may be obliged to retreat from a position that is consistent with national interests.
Further, those who choose to ignore the regimen cannot be punished since the U.N. does not have an enforcement mechanism. It is very much like the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) that attempts to prohibit additional nuclear armed nations. However, even when a signatory to the NPT chooses to ignore the prohibition, e.g. Pakistan, punishment isn't available, other than moral posturing.
What Senator Biden does not seem to appreciate is that freedom of the sea exists only when a nation or nations choose to enforce it. All of the legalisms — especially those written by the U.N. — do not amount to a hill of beans without enforcement. In fact, this kind of international law has a subtle, pernicious effect since it creates the illusion that empty platitudes can influence international behavior.
As I see it UNCLOS is inconsistent with American interests and should be rejected by our Congress. Unfortunately multilateralism is in the ascendancy and many of our legislators have lost touch with the meaning of national interest.