U.S. Ratification of UNCLOS would show U.S. willingness to work multilaterally and strengthen our partnerships
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Perhaps most important of all, ratification would prove to be a diplomatic triumph. American power is defined not simply by economic and military might, but by ideals, leadership, strategic vision and international credibility.
Of course, there are those who would prefer that we have nothing to do with the United Nations, who believe that international treaties hurt our national interests and restrain our foreign policy objectives.
All three of us have struggled while working with and through international organizations — they are unwieldy and not always responsive to American interests. But as we see in Libya today, the United Nations and other international alliances are indispensable in providing legitimacy and reinvigorating American partnerships in times of crisis. And they will ensure needed balance as rising powers inevitably challenge America’s economic and military strength.
Last July, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gained much respect by reassuring the Southeast Asian nations that the United States strongly supported multilateral efforts to address those territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and denounced China’s heavy-handed, unilateral tactics. But strong American positions like that are ultimately undermined by our failure to ratify the convention; it shows we are not really committed to a clear legal regime for the seas.
For all of these reasons, ratification is more important today than ever before. At a time when America’s military and economic strengths are tested, we must lead on the seas as well as on land.
U.S. ratification of UNCLOS would boost its leadership standing in a couple of ways. First, by acceeding to the treaty, the U.S. would immediately be able to participate in the discussion around the future of the treaty and participate in maritime forums that it had previously been locked out of. Secondly, by ratifying the treaty, the U.S. would improve its soft power by showing more of a willingness to cooperate multilaterally.