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United Nations

Bolton’s rise and Haley’s departure stoke fears of hawkish replacement at UN

National security adviser’s long crusade against international law and anything that affects US sovereignty means he may push for a hard-line hawk who may worsen international ties

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2018, 5:55pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2018, 8:53pm

The surprise resignation of Nikki Haley as UN ambassador on Tuesday deprives President Donald Trump and his “America First” philosophy of its most enthusiastic and articulate advocate.

Less clear is whether Haley’s departure marks any change in Trump’s increasingly combative and unilateralist foreign policy.

There were moments when Haley seemed out of step with the White House and more in line with the sort of traditional Republican foreign policy that Trump spurned.

But Haley’s tenure will be best remembered for her ardent defence of some of Trump’s most controversial policies.

Haley cheered the US withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council and the cultural organisation Unesco, limiting the Trump administration’s ability to influence two institutions it viewed as hopelessly flawed.

Trump also slashed funding for the Palestinians while recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital without winning any concessions from Israel – a move formally criticised in a landslide 128-to-9 UN vote.

She also supported Trump’s decision to slash humanitarian aid as punishment for breaking with the US on key policy goals.

“In some cases she was part of the problem,” said Stephen Pomper from the International Crisis Group. “Taking names and using assistance as crude leverage to get votes at the UN was misguided. It makes the US look like a nakedly unprincipled actor.”

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Haley differed from other senior Trump administration officials, and the president she served, in the way she advocated for “Trumpism”.

National Security adviser John Bolton has been a snarling presence at the United Nations.

“If you cross us, our allies, or our partners,” Bolton threatened in September, “if you harm our citizens, if you continue to lie, cheat, and deceive, yes, there will indeed be hell to pay.”

A few weeks earlier he declared the International Criminal Court “dead to us”.

In contrast, Haley adopted hard-line positions but avoided hard-edged rhetoric and tried to develop a collegial rapport with foreign diplomats even as she pushed highly unpopular policies.

“Clearly there has been a lot of tensions between Haley and other ambassadors over Israel and Iran, but I think most diplomats will worry that a hard-line Trump supporter will replace her,” said Richard Gowan, a senior fellow at United Nations University think tank.

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Haley was popular with US diplomats, who saw her as someone who listened to expert opinion, even if she did not always follow it.

“She knows everybody on a very first-name basis,” Trump said in the Oval Office on Tuesday. “And they like her – except for maybe a couple.”

Trump later told reporters he was considering five candidates for Haley’s job and a successor would be named in two to three weeks – maybe sooner.

Among those under consideration, he said, is former deputy national security adviser Dina Powell. The Goldman Sachs executive and former Bush administration official is a close ally of Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law, Jared Kushner – both senior White House aides.

Trump told reporters he has heard Ivanka’s name discussed for the post, adding she’d be “incredible”, but said if he selected her he’d be accused of nepotism.

Now, if Bolton wants this to go off the rails, there may be no one stopping that
Sheba Crocker, Care USA

For the moment it is unclear exactly what kind of person Trump will choose to replace Haley. His praise for the “glamour” she gave the job suggests he will want someone with celebrity appeal.

Bolton, meanwhile, is likely to push for an ideological fellow traveller who will join him in his career-long crusade to obliterate international law or anything that constrains US sovereignty.

The fear in New York and among the more internationally-minded members of the Washington foreign policy establishment is a Bolton-style hardliner could make strained relations at the United Nations even worse.

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“Now, if Bolton wants this to go off the rails, there may be no one stopping that,” said Sheba Crocker, vice-president for humanitarian programmes and policy at Care USA. “There’s now more risk that will happen.”

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In his brief remarks, Trump made clear he craved respect from the UN and praised Haley as someone who had won allies.

“People want to be on our side,” he said. “Even if you look at the votes in the United Nations, votes that we would normally get no votes, we’re getting very strong votes now.”

Additional reporting by Associated Press

He seemed to refer to Haley’s efforts to soften criticism of Israel, such as a June resolution rebuking the Jewish state for using “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force” against Palestinians in Gaza. The resolution was adopted in a 120-to-8 landslide, but she helped encourage 45 abstentions, which some Trump allies framed as a victory.