Would Ronald Reagan Support LOST Today?

Proponents of the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) are trying to claim that if he were alive today, former-President Ronald Reagan would now support LOST, despite his opposition to the treaty in the 1970s and 1980s. Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN) has invoked Reagan on several occasions, claiming the only provision Reagan opposed was fixed:

“President Reagan refused to sign it because of technology transfer provisions and other problems in the section on deep-seabed mining. Later, a hard-fought renegotiation led to changes that met all of President Reagan’s demands.”

So, would Reagan support the treaty today? The U.S. Attorney General during the Reagan administration, Edwin Meese III, says no (emphasis added):

“Those who claim that the U.S. is out of step with LOST need to know that in 1983, after rejecting the treaty, Reagan issued an ‘ocean policy statement’ affirming the U.S. intent to abide by most of the pact’s provisions, such as navigational rights. After all, most of them merely recapitulate rights established by customary international law. Reagan’s statement also proclaimed that the U.S. had a 200-nautical-mile ‘exclusive economic zone’ in conformity with the treaty. No foreign nation has challenged the existence or breadth of that U.S. zone.

“The statement specifically took exception to the treaty’s deep seabed mining provisions. Some have claimed those provisions were the only ones that troubled Reagan. But his diary entry of June 29, 1982, makes it clear that the problems went far beyond that: ‘Decided in [National Security Council] meeting — will not sign ‘Law of the Sea’ treaty even without seabed mining provisions.’

It would be nearly impossible to claim that Sen. Lugar knew Reagan better than Mr. Meese did. It would also be absurd to claim that Reagan would be satisfied with the treaty after it was renegotiated, considering what he himself wrote in his own diary. Yet proponents continue to disingenuously invoke Reagan’s name when pushing for this deeply flawed treaty.

If that diary entry wasn’t enough to put to rest claims that Reagan would support LOST today, remember his warning: “no national interest of the United States could justify handing sovereign control of two-thirds of the Earth’s surface over to the Third World.”


But that hasn’t stopped the Obama Administration from trying to find new allies to support LOST, now turning to defense chiefs in Asia for help:

“Ratification of the international pact, which would create de facto rules for the Pacific waterways, would fall ‘in line with these rules and international order that is necessary’ to maintain peace in the Pacific, according to Panetta.

“Panetta’s remarks were specifically geared toward generating support for the treaty among regional allies in the Pacific, according to Patrick Cronin, an expert in Asian-Pacific security issues at the Center for a New American Security.”

Conservatives are truly the underdogs in the battle of the Law of the Sea Treaty. The Washington Establishment and some of the most powerful special interests are in favor of the treaty. But conservatives need to remember that there’s a reason the treaty has not been ratified in 30 years – it’s bad policy.

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