What Nikki Haley Needs to Confront the UN Swamp
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is already coming under fire for lack of foreign policy experience, following President-elect Donald Trump's announcement that he will nominate her to serve as ambassador to the United Nations. On the foreign-policy front, I'd suggest giving Haley the benefit of the doubt. Foreign policy experience might sound like a great metric for judging any candidate to represent the U.S. at the UN, but it can be misleading -- useful, but hardly sufficient.
For instance, while such longtime foreign-policy fixtures as Secretary of State John Kerry and current ambassador to the UN Samantha Power were, respectively, designing and promoting President Obama's rotten Iran nuclear deal, Haley had the good sense to oppose it.
More broadly, plenty of Americans with loads of foreign policy experience (including Alger Hiss) were instrumental in the 1945 genesis of the ever-expanding swamp that is the UN. In the 71 years since, legions of American foreign-policy maestros have made themselves lavishly at home amid the UN vapors, while allowing U.S. interests to drown in its quicksand.
That said, I'll stipulate that among those best qualified for the job of next ambassador to the UN, my own preferences ran strongly to former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton or former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Bolton has plenty of foreign policy expertise, especially with the UN. He knows his way around both the minefields of the Security Council and the miasmas of the back corridors -- as documented in his 2007 memoir, "Surrender Is Not an Option," and demonstrated by his vital role in achieving the 1991 repeal of the UN General Assembly's resolution equating Zionism with "racism."
Giuliani surely knows plenty about the UN as well, as a former mayor of the city that hosts its headquarters (and the accompanying annual September gridlock), and as a former U.S. attorney of New York's Southern District, where criminal investigations periodically intersect with the large UN underbelly of cases involving graft, money-laundering, spying and so forth. Among Giuliani's foreign policy credentials, one of the high points was his rejection, shortly after the al Qaeda attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, of a $10 million charitable donation to New York City, offered by a Saudi prince who criticized Israel and America's policies in the Middle East.
Either of these men would have been a good choice. But their chief credentials have less to do with their UN and foreign-policy background than with their record of sound principles and strong backbone. Those are the two qualifications most desperately needed in a U.S. ambassador to the UN. Nor does it hurt to have a strong stomach at the despot-heavy UN, where the likes of Iran, Cuba and the Palestinian Authority command out-sized influence, and Russia and China wield vetoes on the Security Council.
Trump in his announcement praised Haley as having "a proven track record of bringing people together" and being "a proven dealmaker." That in itself is not enough. There are plenty of deals to be had at the UN, if the U.S. is willing to sacrifice its own interests, and pay the biggest share of the bill into the bargain. President Obama recently celebrated his erstwhile success in peddling the Paris climate accord, a UN-fostered deal that should count as neither a success nor a surprise, given that it entails promises of massive global wealth transfers to some of the world's most repressive governments, based on dubious "science," offering hazy goals, at substantial cost to the wallets and the freedom-of-choice of Americans.
The real question is how much fortitude, patriotism and common sense Haley might bring to the post of ambassador to the UN. After eight years of Obama leading from behind, apologizing for America, snubbing democratic allies and offering concessions to enemies, the UN bureaucracy and its member states are more than accustomed to scarfing up U.S. money while seeing America diminished, ignored or humiliated on the world stage.
A classic example was the insult delivered to Obama last year by Russia's President Vladimir Putin, who on the opening day of the General Assembly's high-level debate shared the lineup with Obama in New York, but did not bother to take part a day later in Obama's "Leaders' Summit" on countering ISIS and "Violent Extremism." Putin had bigger fish to fry. He flew home to Moscow, to preside over Russia's abrupt delivery of a demarche to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, informing them that Russia (whether Washington liked it or not) was about to begin air strikes in Syria. Obama's summit gabfest gave way to Kerry spluttering at the UN Security Council about the need in Syria for U.S.-Russia "deconfliction."
That's just a sample of what's been going on at the UN, where the problems abound both on the policy level and within the UN bureaucracy itself. The UN is a collective of 193 member states, in which the U.S. gets one vote in the General Assembly, and holds one of the five veto-wielding seats in the 15-member Security Council, but pays 22% of the assessed dues for the General Assembly budget, 28.57% of the annual peacekeeping bill, and varying but usually large percentages of the budgets for a welter of funds, programs and related entities that have proliferated into a diplomatically immune global labyrinth more dedicated to serving itself than the UN charter cause of peace. In this setup, U.S. tax dollars are treated largely as an entitlement, to be pocketed without gratitude or respect, and too often with scorn.
Here, for reference, is the UN's chart of its own system, which has been evolving for decades into something that more closely resembles a neo-colonial empire than a conclave of governments.
Where, in all this, might Nikki Haley begin?