The news these days is dominated by headlines and soundbites coming out of Washington, D.C. Whether it’s Donald Trump’s latest tweet about North Korea, Bernie Sanders’ most recent rebuttal to said North Korea tweet, or Paul Ryan’s daily plug for the simplicity of the new tax plan, it seems like we are always hearing from the same people. If the amount of time spent in the public spotlight is any indication of importance, the previously listed individuals would fall near the top of the list of the most important people in Washington. But if we’re talking about the security and well-being of the United States, particularly on an international level, I submit that there is someone who is more important than all of them. Yes, even more important than President Trump. Her name is Nikki Haley. She is the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, and there is a good chance that you’ve never heard of her.
Ambassador Haley has flown under the radar for several reasons. First, she’s relatively new on the national political stage. After working as the CFO of her family’s clothing company, Exotica International, Haley ran for and won a seat in the South Carolina House of Representatives. She later served as the Governor of South Carolina. On January 24, 2017, she resigned the governorship (in the middle of her second term) to accept a nomination as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
Many of Donald Trump’s cabinet selections were controversial at best and at worst were outright opposed. But this was not the case with Haley; she was confirmed in the Senate with an astonishing 96-4 vote. This degree of support is particularly impressive considering Haley’s relative lack of diplomatic and foreign policy experience. While previous appointees to her position have included career diplomats, National Security Council members, and State Department advisors, Haley has practically no international experience. In fact, up until November 19, 2017, her international experience as listed on the U.S. Mission to the United Nations website was limited to economic development trips to five different countries during her time as governor, meant to recruit businesses to North Carolina. By November 21st, the biography had been changed. It now emphasizes her accomplishments at the U.N. thus far, omitting any mention of the economic development trips.
The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, formally known as the Permanent Representative to the United Nations, is the leader of the U.S.’s diplomatic mission to the U.N. This means that she represents the U.S. at the U.N. General Assembly and on the U.N. Security Council, the branch of the U.N. responsible for maintaining international peace and security. And you thought your job was hard. Throw into the equation an unpredictable president with a knack for speaking his mind on the world’s fastest news dissemination network, Twitter, and you’ve got a Herculean task on your hands.
Regardless of her general lack of experience, Ambassador Haley is widely considered to have been extremely successful in her work so far. She has managed to represent and advance the interests of the United States at the United Nations, maintaining a reasonable stance on core issues even when it means parting with opinions or statements coming from the White House. This is especially impressive when we consider the unpredictable and occasionally inflammatory nature of the president’s statements having to do with foreign policy (little rocket man? seriously?).
Ambassador Haley’s stance on Russia is the best example of her divergence from the precedent established by the White House. While the President has failed to come down hard on Russia for their invasion of Ukraine, Ambassador Haley condemned their “aggressive actions” in her first appearance before the security council on February 2, 2017. She used strong, albeit diplomatic, language and left it clear that while the U.S. desires a stronger relationship with Russia, their actions were not appropriate. Again, this is in contrast to the rhetoric coming from a White House that struggles to find fault in Moscow even amidst the most grievous allegations.
Haley also spearheaded the international charge to bring stronger economic sanctions against North Korea after their continued testing of nuclear weapons. In an emergency meeting of the Security Council, she said, “The time has come to exhaust all diplomatic means to end this crisis… Only the strongest sanctions will enable us to resolve this problem through diplomacy. We have kicked the can down the road long enough.”
Since her appointment in January, Ambassador Haley has been busily working, for the most part out of the spotlight of the news media, to protect the United States and establish peace in the world. She has established a strong presence at the U.N. on the part of the United States, while simultaneously working to develop international relationships. The importance of this work cannot be underestimated. She may not be the most well-known American politician, but she is certainly among the most important.
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