The star of the AIPAC conference on Monday was, unquestionably, Nikki Haley, the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The 18,000 attendees roared their approval for the “new sheriff in town” at the U.N.
Rarely has a presidential appointee won public acclaim as quickly as Nikki Haley. And rarely has such acclaim been so well-deserved.
Haley’s ringing defense of Israel and unequivocal scorn for the malefactors of world diplomacy do, of course, recall her illustrious predecessor Daniel P. Moynihan’s famous denunciation of the “Zionism is Racism” resolution in 1975:
“The United States rises to declare before the General Assembly of the United Nations, and before the world, that it does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act,” declared Moynihan in his speech after the vote.
Every act so far taken by Haley is another step in the footsteps of Moynihan. Like her articulate disgust with the U.N. Security Council meeting on Middle East issues in February:
“I am here to say the United States will not turn a blind eye to this anymore,” Haley said. “I am here to underscore the ironclad support of the United States for Israel. I am here to emphasize that the United States is determined to stand up to the U.N.’s anti-Israel bias.”
In her on-stage interview (not a set speech) at AIPAC, she said, “I knew they said it was bad, but until you hear it and you see it, you just can’t comprehend.”
There is every evidence that her outrage is real, and her determination to change things at the U.N. — America’s performance there, first of all — equally real. For instance, her insistence that the Human Rights Council’s “apartheid” report on Israel be withdrawn (which it was), stands in stark contrast to the ignominious abstention from the Security Council condemnation of Israel at the end of the Obama administration.
When Haley’s appointment was announced, she was dismissed in some quarters for her lack of diplomatic experience. But it may very well be that what the U.N. mission needs at this historic juncture is not experience in diplomacy but in advocacy.
At times, Moynihan’s language could also have been faulted as “undiplomatic”:
“What we have here is a lie,” he said … “a political lie of a variety well known to the 20th century, and scarcely exceeded in all that annals of untruth and outrage. The lie is that Zionism is a form of racism. The overwhelmingly clear truth is that it is not.”
Calling a lie a lie is a form of bluntness rarely heard in the corridors of the United Nations, and it might even be thought inappropriate to the forum.
However, to think so is to misunderstand diplomacy. While the language of diplomacy is inescapably laden with obfuscation and circumlocution, with the handshakes and smiles and his-exellencies addressed to honorable ambassadors and the overdressed thugs alike, plain speech is also a vital part of diplomacy when the situation calls for it. The diplomacy of outrage is also diplomacy.
In addition, although it is true she has no previous experience in international fora, her political record indicates that she does possess the communications and social skills that are vital to successful diplomatic work. She demonstrated that when she won the governorship of South Carolina — the first woman ever to do so — and then won a second term. She was also the first minority governor, the daughter of immigrants from India. (She was born “Nimrata Randhawa.”)
In the beginning, her candidacy for governor was also dismissed as naïve, and she was written off by the experienced pols. Subsequently, in the state house she again surprised her detractors with an ability to get things done, even though she lacked a majority in the state assembly.
It also should be noted that Haley’s success reflects especially well on President Donald Trump. To his credit, he chose Haley, who far from being a crony, supported his rivals — first Marco Rubio, then Ted Cruz — in the primaries. She was openly critical of Mr. Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric, which she warned could lead to violence, like the killings in her own state capital Charleston. She did endorse his candidacy in the general election, though saying she was “not a fan.”
A more auspicious start could not be hoped for. What the future will bring no mortal knows. But at least for now we can feel reassured that we have a friend at the U.N.