Political and economic costs from freedom of navigation program demand an alternative
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A fourth reason arguing for the importance of the Convention to our national security equation is the growing political and military costs of the U.S. Freedom of Navigation Program in the face of new excessive maritime claims by an increasing number of states. This program, initiated in 1979 by the Carter Administration, and continued by the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton Administrations, combines diplomatic action and operational assertion of our navigational rights to discourage state claims inconsistent with13 international law as reflected in the Convention. On the diplomatic front, the U.S. State Department protests maritime claims that are inconsistent with international law. Since the inception of this program, well over 100 such protests have been filed by the United14 States. Over the same time period, U.S. military ships and aircraft have exercised navigational rights and freedoms in all oceans against excessive claims of more than 5015 countries with numerous operational assertions every year. Clearly, the scope of this program alone makes it highly desirable for the United States to decrease the number of contentious ocean issues. Moreover, the political costs and military risks of such unilat- eral actions have been high in the past and can only increase in a changing world order.
The United States can assert its navigational rights at any point on the globe, but it cannot be assured of a local superiority of forces simultaneously at every location of potential maritime dispute. Moreover, obvious practicality compels restraint—against both allies and potential adversaries—over maritime disputes. Even the peaceful and non-confrontational Freedom of Navigation (FON) program may present diplomatic costs and pose risks inherent in physical challenges,