Paul Clarke: American Leadership and the Law of the Sea
Truman Senior Advisor Paul Clarke in the San Francisco Chronicle:
Secretary of Defense Panetta recently toured Asia, explaining why the US is repositioning its naval forces in favor of the Pacific. Whether one considers this to be balancing against China or simply putting forces where they are needed, one fact remains clear. This historic “Asian Pivot” and other US maritime initiative are hamstrung, because the US remains outside the Convention on the Law of the SEA (CLOS). CLOS is an international set of “rules of the oceans” that would protect America’s access to its seabed mineral and fishing rights. It is vital to US national security, because its member states interpret how to use and protect the oceans and who has navigation rights. In other words, it determines the future of the oceans.
In the courses I teach through the Naval War College, we build upon the theories of such greats as Alfred Thayer Mahan, whose ideas on the “command of the seas” became the naval power that later ensured US victories in WWI and WWII. The future of international negotiations about those same seas lies in CLOS, yet, because of a few intractable Republican senators, the US has muzzled itself, making the US the only significant power to refuse to ratify CLOS.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Truman National Security Project or Educational Institute.