Nikki Haley is Still a Star

By Richard Schifter


July 9, 2018


The United Nations Charter provides that the organization is designed to "maintain international peace and security, ... develop friendly relations among nations, ... [and] be a center for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends." Given the fact that many UN member states routinely fail to support these principles, the task of demanding adherence to the charter has fallen to the United States.

Having worked under three US Presidents of both political parties, including a number of years at the United Nations, I will say that the current US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has done an extraordinary job thus far.

For the last year and a half, Haley has spoken up with remarkable clarity. Her work has resulted in savings of $600 million by avoiding wasteful and duplicative spending in UN peacekeeping missions. She has highlighted the unfair policy of the United Nations in dealing with Israel. And she has successfully urged the UN Security Council to adopt North Korea sanctions. 

And yet, in his recent opinion piece on, Stephen Schlesinger asserts that Haley's "star, which was burning so brightly in the first year of the Trump administration, is beginning to dim significantly in the second year." 

He clearly recognizes that during her first year at the United Nations, Haley's actions earned her great respect. As distinct from many of her predecessors, she has spoken with great vigor, and succeeded in spreading the message about how the US views issues considered at the United Nations. In her second year, Haley has continued to perform the highly significant role she performed in her first year. Her star most certainly continues to burn brightly.

The case that Schlesinger makes for the proposition that Haley's star has dimmed is not reasonable. He calls attention to the fact that the ambassador was not in Singapore for the Donald Trump-Kim Jong Un summit or in Jerusalem when the US Embassy opened there. 

But her presence at both events would not have been within her area of responsibility. An ambassador to the United Nations is focused on working with numerous countries simultaneously in New York. The UN ambassador does not participate in direct negotiations with individual foreign heads of state, except when they relate directly to UN affairs.

In other words, there was no point for Haley to be in Singapore for the summit between Trump and Kim. The bilateral items on the agenda in Singapore were not in her area of responsibility. She made her contribution to US foreign policy on North Korea by winning passage ofthree unprecedented multilateral sanctions against North Korea at the UN Security Council. 

Nor was there any point to Haley taking time out from her duties at the United Nations to make a trip to Jerusalem for the embassy opening. She has applied herself consistently and with remarkable success to the task of opposing the unfair treatment of Israel by the current UN majority. 

Most recently, she announced that the United States was withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council, which she noted has been particularly hostile to Israel. This was a decision her staff told me she strongly advocated behind the scenes. Indeed, one of Haley's great accomplishments has been to place UN affairs high on the administration's foreign policy agenda.

Schlesinger further suggests that the appointment of Mike Pompeo as secretary of state and John Bolton as national security adviser has weakened Haley's position within the administration. 

While there is no doubt that Pompeo and Bolton are more effective than their predecessors, that does not weaken Haley's ability to win support for the US position at the United Nations. On the contrary, it strengthens it greatly. The added cohesiveness of the administration that comes from the like-mindedness of Pompeo and Bolton gives Haley even more latitude than she had in the first year. 

There is no reason to assume that Pompeo and Bolton will interfere with the way Haley discharges her duties at the United Nations. In fact, they are using their positions to support her work there. This is evident in the international pressure they are putting on Iran by bringing about economic boycott measures, which are paralleled by Haley's effort to put complementary pressure on Iran at the United Nations.

As a US deputy representative to the United Nations while Jeane Kirkpatrick served as our UN ambassador, I saw first-hand what a difference can be made by principled US leadership at the United Nations.

I am grateful that America once again has found that leadership with Ambassador Nikki Haley.