U.S. ability to exclude its military from arbitration is not absolute and our adversaries will use that to their advantage
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Even though LOST permits a state party to declare “disputes concerning military activities” to be exempt from dispute settlement, such a declaration would very likely be the beginning of the process, not its end.
As I have noted earlier, the Treaty does not define “military activities.” At the very least, therefore, were the United States freely to assume the foregoing obligations, it would set the stage for injunctions, or other adverse rulings, against the U.S. military to be sought from one LOST dispute resolution agency or another. Given the stacked-deck nature of these mechanisms, it is far from certain that our opponents will fail.
This applies in spades to things we consider to be “military activities” but that may well be depicted by our opponents in ITLOS or arbitration proceedings as environmentally harmful activities (e.g., charges that Navy sonars are responsible for killing whales and dolphins). Importantly, in the event of any disagreement over whether an activity is military in nature, the Treaty grants to its dispute resolution mechanisms the right to make that determination themselves.
Acceding to UNCLOS would expose the U.S. to lawsuits on virtually any maritime activity, such as alleged pollution of the marine environment from a land-based source or through the atmosphere. Regardless of the merits, the U.S. would be forced to defend itself against every such lawsuit at great expense to U.S. taxpayers. Any judgment rendered by an UNCLOS tribunal would be final, could not be appealed, and would be enforceable in U.S. territory.