December 7, 2018


Can Nikki Haley Emerge From the Trump Administration Unscathed?: In an interview with The Atlantic, the outgoing U.S. ambassador to the UN made the case for a values-driven foreign policy, and acknowledged daylight between her and the president. (URI FRIEDMAN, 12/07/18, The Atlantic)

A 46-year-old, exceedingly popular Republican politician, Haley is the daughter of Indian immigrants and a former South Carolina governor who is often discussed as a potential presidential candidate. Her reflection on her tenure at the UN, and the moral calling that she felt underpinned it, was a vivid reminder that the president's America First vision isn't necessarily the settled future of the Grand Old Party. It was also an object lesson in how Haley, perhaps more skillfully than any other top administration official, has navigated major differences with Trump while cultivating common ground. And she's done it representing him at an organization he once denounced as no friend to the United States.

"The most dangerous thing we can ever do is show a blind eye to any sort of human-rights violations," Haley told me, arguing that promoting American values overseas is in the core interest of the United States. "Because if [the violation] threatens people, it threatens the world."

In her first public comments on the Khashoggi killing, for example, she rejected the idea that the apparent state-sponsored murder of the journalist by Saudi Arabia, a longtime ally, placed the United States in the binary position of having to choose between its interests and its values--as the president has suggested in insisting that any U.S. response to the Khashoggi case must not disrupt an alliance that is critical to American economic and security interests. Employing remarkably forceful language for a hard-liner on Iran, she maintained that Washington could simultaneously consider Saudi Arabia its "complete partner when it comes to fighting Iran" and convey the message that "we're not going to continue to be your partners if you continue to use thuggish behavior."

"You have Saudi government officials that did this in a Saudi consulate" in Turkey, Haley told me. "We can't give them a pass," she added, "because that's not who America is." That's why the Trump administration has sanctioned 17 Saudi officials accused of involvement in the murder and is "asking for accountability," she explained, and "we need to continue to do it until we get it."

Asked about accountability for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who, at least according to senators briefed by the CIA this week, was likely behind the hit, Haley said, "I think all of that, the administration needs to decide." She did not specify the additional steps she would like the White House to take.

But while Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have avoided calling out MbS, as the crown prince is known, citing a lack of clear proof of his complicity in the extrajudicial killing, Haley didn't reference the intelligence community's findings or lack thereof. Instead, she simply noted bin Salman's status as the kingdom's de facto ruler to make the point that the buck stops with him.

"We can't condone [the Khashoggi murder], we can't ever say it's OK, we can't ever support thuggish behavior, and we have to say that," Haley told me.

At the United Nations, Haley has argued that prioritizing rights issues can avert conflict that endangers Americans and people around the world. She has sought to introduce debate on human rights into the UN Security Council, a body that is intended to focus on matters of peace and security, for this reason.

"You look at Syria," she observed, citing a conflict she has spent considerable time on, whether in visiting refugee camps, raising alarms about a (so far averted) Syrian government offensive against the rebel-held province of Idlib, or unsuccessfully seeking the renewal of a mechanism for holding perpetrators of chemical-weapons attacks accountable (Russia nixed it). "Everybody talks about how long this war has been. What started that war? That handful of teenagers was out there doing what every teenager does--spray-painted something on a wall, and even though it wasn't that bad, the government officials don't just go and say something to them; they beat them, they bloody them, they pull their nails out and return them to their parents. Their parents go out to the streets, the country rises up, the government oppresses them, conflict happens. It always happens."

As Haley sees it, whenever people feel stripped of freedom and opportunity, they instinctively challenge their government in order to reclaim control over their lives. "And if a government doesn't value human life," she said, "then they will do something to their people that the whole world will have to pay attention to." Haley has argued that the peril extends beyond those under the dictator's thumb. In 2017, after a North Korean missile test, she drew a direct connection between the nuclear threat from Pyongyang and the government's ghastly human-rights record. "Depravity toward one is a sure sign of willingness to do much more harm," she warned at the time.

"I think those freedoms are every person's God-given right, regardless of where they were born and raised, regardless of their religion, regardless of their ethnicity or gender," said Haley, who was raised Sikh but converted to Christianity as an adult. (During her confirmation hearing, Haley traced her focus on human rights to her love of her family's and America's "immigrant heritage" and to her decision as governor to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse.) "It doesn't cost us anything to fight for democracy, to fight for human rights, and to fight for the dignity of people ... We have to understand the leverage we have: that when we call out a country or we call out a wrong, everyone takes notice."

What Next for Nikki Haley (Charlie Sykes, 12/06/18, TWS)

On today's Daily Standard Podcast, senior writer Michael Warren joins host Charlie Sykes to discuss the funeral of former President George H.W. Bush and his legacy, the state of the economy, and what's next for outgoing UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. 

Posted by at December 7, 2018 7:14 PM