Upon assuming the presidency, many observers expressed reservations about what a Trump administration foreign policy would look like. More than any other representative of President Donald Trump’s government, United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley has answered those critics.
At the UN, Haley has articulated a clear vision of how America would handle itself on the world stage: a stalwart friend to its allies, fearsome foe to its enemies, and consistent voice of reason in a forum often governed by the whims of authoritarian regimes and violent special interests.
This week, for example, Haley made clear the Trump administration would stop at nothing to curb dictator Kim Jong-un’s threats in North Korea and uproot Iranian terror proxies from Syria.
“We’re not ruling anything out,” Haley told reporters on Wednesday in response to what the United States would do in response to North Korea’s latest missile tests, which Pyongyang openly admitted were in preparation for an attack on U.S. bases in Japan. She offered a staunch defense of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system: “We are not going to leave South Korea standing there with the threat of North Korea facing them and not help. The reason for THAAD is because of the actions of North Korea.”
Both China and Russia, permanent members of the UN Security Council, disapprove of the deployment of THAAD in South Korea. The system allows South Korea to reach deep into both countries, as well as North Korea, to destroy any missiles heading its way.
“Tell me why we wouldn’t do the THAAD in light of twenty-four ballistic missiles? In light of two nuclear tests?” Haley asked critics.
Haley’s support for South Korea is a far cry from what domestic and South Korean critics feared out of a Trump administration – a full withdrawal from Asia. As a candidate, Trump had encouraged both nations to be self-reliant, even invoking the possibility of nuclear weapons development.
Critics also claimed Trump’s White House would remain silent in the face of Russian belligerence in Eastern Europe. As chief international representative to that White House, Haley has done no such thing. On the contrary; her debut before the UN Security Council was a condemnation of Russian military incursions into Eastern Ukraine. “I consider it unfortunate on the occasion of my first appearance here I must condemn the aggressive actions of Russia,” she said during her first appearance before the Security Council. “We do want to better our relations with Russia… however, the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.”
“We have criticized Russia for Crimea and Ukraine, for the actions they’ve taken there. We will call them out when we see something wrong. If we see where we can work together, of course, we’re going to try and do that,” Haley told an Al Jazeera journalist this week, once again condemning Russia, this time for supporting Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and opposing resolutions condemning his use of chemical weapons against civilians.
Haley has also been excellent as a vocal ally of Israel, the only functioning democracy in the Middle East. Among her first acts as UN Ambassador were a visit to the family of an Israel soldier killed by the terrorist group Hamas and a rebuke of the Security Council generally for its “obsession” with Israel.
Calling its attacks on Israel “breathtaking,” Haley highlighted in February that the UN “Department of Political Affairs has an entire department devoted to Palestinian affairs… there is not a division devoted to illegal missile launches from North Korea.”
“There is no division devoted to the world’s number one state sponsor of terror, Iran,” she noted, a country she demanded the international community take out of Syria entirely this week, despite Iran being Assad’s most prominent ally.
“I’m here to say the United States will not turn a blind eye to this anymore. I’m here to underscore the ironclad support of the United States for Israel,” she concluded.
Haley’s support of Israel is a particularly striking contrast with her predecessor Samantha Power’s decision to abstain from a Security Council vote against Israel in December, a final abandonment of America’s longtime ally on the world stage before President Obama’s departure.
In these three key regions – Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East – Haley has sent a message to the enemies of freedom that her predecessor, Samantha Power, never bothered with: the United States will not allow the UN to be hijacked by allies of Palestinian terror organizations, or allow it to continue ignoring the seemingly endless transgressions of North Korea, or allow the Russian government to flex its diplomatic muscle to silence its critics in the Security Council.
In doing so, Haley has shattered several myths about the Trump administration, namely, that Trump would take on a permissive international posture towards Russia and abandon South Korea and Japan to fend for themselves against their Communist neighbors. She has also reassured critics who feared that being the chief executive of a state offered her little relevant experience to navigate such a high-level diplomatic job.