The amazing decline of clear thinking and serious-minded national security thought, combined with misplaced priorities is starkly apparent in few places greater than on national policy related to the high seas.
Is it because the seas are so big yet so important that policy makers can't quite get a grip on the concept? Is it because it is a transnational space - that those who have never been to sea but like to sit behind desks pontificating find it a fertile ground for self-important power/attention plays? Easy picking for internationalists?
There is an incredibly important article in the latest edition of The American Interest by Midrats alumni James Kraska along with Raul Pedrozo titled, Toolbox: U.S. Oceans Policy on an Even Keel.
Only part of it is available online - so subscribe or find a local library that carries it. The decline is outlined well,
For more than two centuries, U.S. oceans law and policy was driven by strategic political and military interests in global access and mobility, with naval officers and diplomats working in tandem with the White House to fashion a coordinated approach. Throughout our history, our strategic view of the oceans promoted U.S. military security and economic prosperity. As an “island nation”, the United States has had a paramount concern for freedom of navigation from the very beginnings of its history as a sovereign state.Did you catch that word? Of course you did - you read CDRSalamander. Remember - anytime you hear that word, someone is trying to baffle you with bu115h1t. Let's continue.
In the aftermath of World War II, the Departments of Defense and State spoke with a single voice on freedom of the seas. The reason was clear: The oceans connected the United States to world markets as well as strategic friends and allies in Europe and Asia.
On April 5, 1995, U.S. policy took a wrong turn with the issuance of Presidential Decision Directive 36, “U.S. Policy on Protecting the Ocean Environment.” With that directive, the Clinton Administration placed U.S. oceans policy under the “Global Environment” policy coordinating committee (PCC) of the National Security Council, an interdisciplinary committee focused on “environmental security.”
The mission statement of the Bureau of Oceans says: “We advance sustainable development internationally through leadership in oceans, environment, science and health.” The State Department’s website adds that the bureau “promotes transformational diplomacy through advancing environmental stewardship, encouraging economic growth, and promoting social development around the globe to foster a safer, more secure and hopeful world.” Nary a word about freedom of navigation, whether for commercial vessels or for warships, graces its pages. Nor is there mention of: maritime interdiction of weapons of mass destruction; illegal drugs and terrorists at sea; counter-piracy operations; and peaceful resolution of sensitive maritime boundary disputes ...
Matters deteriorated further during the George W. Bush Administration when the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the White House office that sets the agenda for national environmental policy, took formal control of U.S. oceans policy from the NSC. On August 7, 2000 Congress passed the Oceans Act, which was set to become law on January 20, 2001, the last day of the Clinton Administration. The act set up a 16-member U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy to establish findings and make recommendations to the President and Congress. On September 20, 2004, the commission submitted its final report, “An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century”, containing 212 recommendations on many aspects of ocean and coastal policy. In response to the commission’s recommendations, President Bush issued an executive order on December 17, 2004 establishing a Committee on Ocean Policy as part of CEQ. That Committee, chaired by the CEQ and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), was run out of CEQ offices near the White House. From that point, whatever residual formal authority the NSC had over oceans policy disappeared.A bi-partisan train wreck of the self-important ignoring the national self interest. To what end?
President Obama has continued and deepened this approach. The White House created an Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force on June 12, 2009 with the CEQ still leading U.S. oceans policy. The task force emphasizes “protection, maintenance and restoration of the health of the oceans” and “upholding our stewardship responsibilities.” It pays but lip service to U.S. national security interests. The Presidential Proclamation on National Oceans Month, issued on the same date as the Task Force announcement, doesn’t even do that: It doesn’t mention national security at all, instead indicating that U.S. ocean policy will “incorporate ecosystem-based science and management and emphasize our public stewardship responsibilities.”
Dull but massively important. I hope somewhere in the Senate a Staffer gets the number for Kraska & Pedrozo and makes a call. If they can't find one - send me an email. I have it.