To Guard the Sea

As far as government is concerned, less is often held better. Still, total absence of government gives a draughty feeling and it is just this sense of vacuum which pervades all today's discussions of the sea and seabed, areas into which, for good or evil, technology is fast hauling us. There is no government, no general system of law or of law enforcement, no obvious way even of setting about instituting government for these seven-tenths of the globe.

Arms control, it is rather hurriedly supposed, would be a good thing, not so much because there are too many weapons of a dangerous sort on and under the sea (although there may be), but rather to prevent a nuclear arms race breaking out on the sea bottom, just as the Space Treaty and the Antarctic Treaty have prevented arms races in space and in Antarctica.

In fact there is not much parallel, and the reason for considering sea and seabed arms control now is the almost total absence at sea of the kind of constabularies that are fundamental to any system of law and regulation. Trade has always followed the flag, because only a flag has given any guarantee of enforcible law (flags of convenience are another matter-their purpose has rather been the avoidance of enforcible law), but as far as most of the seabed, and more of the waters above it, are concerned, there is no flag, nor any other authority, unambiguously responsible for keeping what in England is called the Queen's Peace. The devising and control of sea-government forces must, I think, be considered a form of arms control of a rather new sort. If we are to use and civilize what is either our last frontier or our last great common, a purpose must govern its use. This purpose I take to be the enhancement and maintenance of national and international security and well-being at the lowest possible level of expenditure.

The problems that arise from the ungoverned status

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