I attended a breakfast meeting with the US Envoy to the UN, Ms. Nikki Haley, at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Wednesday March 29.
Ambassador Haley has a considerable presence to her as a public figure, being the former Governor of South Carolina, the daughter of immigrants from India, well-known for removing the Confederate flag from the state’s capital, yet a Tea Party stalwart, and still in her forties, a comer in Republican Party politics.
As ambassador for several months, she turns out to be a relaxed and very glib representative of the Trump Administration who also exhibits a requisite toughness in her pronouncements. She conceded that on many issues she is still in the “learning mode.” But, during the event, she did not retreat from President Trump’s foreign policy views in any inordinate way. She refused to admit to any wrongdoings by the administration, for example, in Trump’s policies on immigration, building up the US military at the cost of cutting back on important domestic programs, taking “names” on countries opposing the US at the UN, or even sizable cutbacks to US assistance (up to 30%) for UN peacekeeping operations — though, on the latter, she did hint that she would try to moderate some of the reductions.
She openly criticized Russia on its takeover of Crimea, but on Russia’s role in Syria she suggested the US could work with Moscow for a peaceful settlement ― meaning she did not stray far from Trump’s public position at least on that conflict. She suggested that the she would consider withdrawing the US from its post on the Human Rights Council because of the Council’s make-up of some authoritarian states and its constant criticism of Israel— though most commentators and human rights groups have said that the US’s presence has had an essential role on the Council in defending Israel and criticizing abuses by North Korea among other offenders.
Finally, she preached that she would “reform” the UN, bring “fresh eyes” to all UN missions, get more “value” out of the body for the US, and make human rights the key issue in the organization ― presenting her credo of service as one of glowing idealism. But, in truth, underneath it all, she sounded a lot like the Miss Universe winner who says her mission in life is to “bring about world peace” ― a lot of superficial palaver which, in Haley’s case, disguises her fundamentally right-wing beliefs.