A su­per­star in Don­ald Trump’s Cab­i­net

With grit and charm, Nikki Ha­ley won the votes for North Korean sanc­tions

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Suzanne Fields

Don­ald Trump has a skill for re­cruit­ing Cab­i­net of­fi­cers he has treated badly. Serv­ing in his ad­min­is­tra­tion can re­quire self­less de­vo­tion to duty. Jeff Ses­sions, the at­tor­ney gen­eral, could tell you about that. So could Nikki Ha­ley, the U.S. am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions who is swiftly be­com­ing the Cab­i­net su­per­star.

She took the lead in per­suad­ing China and Rus­sia to join the sanc­tion­ing of North Korea, all to per­suade Kim Jong-un to think again about his boast­ful threat to ig­nite World War III.

Such a catas­tro­phe might at last be “the war to end war,” as Woodrow Wil­son said of World War I. Mr. Kim’s reck­less ex­u­ber­ance with his nu­clear toys has ter­ri­fied the world into a new re­al­ity, and Nikki Ha­ley used it to win ap­proval of United Na­tions Res­o­lu­tion 2371, which she calls “the sin­gle largest eco­nomic pack­age ever lev­eled against the North Korean regime” and “the most strin­gent set of sanc­tions on any coun­try in a gen­er­a­tion.”

If en­forced to the limit — a big “if” — the ef­fects could re­duce Py­ongyang’s ex­ports by $3 bil­lion, a third of its rev­enue from ex­ports of coal and min­er­als, which in turn is key to keep­ing its nu­clear and mis­sile scientists at work.

“The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity is stand­ing with one voice,” Mrs. Ha­ley says. “China didn’t pull off. Rus­sia didn’t pull off. All of the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity said, ‘That’s enough.’ ” Mr. Kim’s provo­ca­tions have ex­hausted the pa­tience even of China, his en­abler and pa­tron. “It’s reck­less. It’s irresponsible, and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity re­ally laid down the ground­work of say­ing, ‘We’re not go­ing to watch you do this any more.’ ”

The prospect of pock­et­book pain is al­ways per­sua­sive, and North Korea’s blus­tery re­sponse ar­rived as if on cue. “North Korea will make the U.S. pay dearly for all the heinous crime it com­mits against the state and the peo­ple of this coun­try,” the state me­dia warned. Mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence ser­vices re­ported that North Korea was mov­ing an­timis­sile ships into po­si­tion off its eastern coast in an­tic­i­pa­tion of ac­tion.

“They’re go­ing to threaten,” Mrs. Ha­ley says of the blus­ter, “but we’re not go­ing to run scared from them. Our job is to de­fend not just the United States, but our al­lies. We have to pro­tect our friends, and we’re go­ing to con­tinue to do that. China stepped up and said, ‘We will fol­low through on these sanc­tions.’ And now we have to just stay on them to make sure they do that.”

This is not the kind of talk the rest of the world is ac­cus­tomed to hear­ing from the Amer­i­can am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions.

Mrs. Ha­ley re­ported for duty at a United Na­tions puz­zled and de­spon­dent over the de­feat of Hil­lary Clin­ton, and many re­garded her as a pa­tron­age pay­off by the new pres­i­dent, and would fin­ish her term at the U.N. with just an­other en­try on her re­sume and leave for the speak­ing cir­cuit to cash in on po­lit­i­cal celebrity. “No one at the United Na­tions,” said one pro­fes­sor pun­dit, “will think Nikki Ha­ley is some­one to talk to who will be ei­ther knowl­edge­able or close to the pres­i­dent.”

The pro­fes­sor missed by only a mile. Per­haps buoyed on such mod­est ex­pec­ta­tions, she has pros­pered at the U.N., work­ing hard to build close re­la­tion­ships with other del­e­ga­tions, par­tic­u­larly those of Amer­ica’s Euro­pean al­lies. Over the first months of her ten­ure she earned the re­spect of other del­e­gates that en­abled her to rally sup­port for Amer­i­can po­si­tions on Syria as well as North Korea.

Her fre­quent and ag­gres­sive scold­ing of Rus­sian sup­port for Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad in Syria earned her a rep­u­ta­tion for lead­ing, as well as fol­low­ing, Amer­i­can pol­icy. She squelched the long-stand­ing Rus­sian goal of mak­ing Rus­sia the moral ac­tor in the Syr­ian civil war. She still won Rus­sian sup­port for the sanc­tions vote.

Lit­tle more than a year ago she seemed un­likely to be a part of a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. She clashed with Mr. Trump the can­di­date on the eve of the South Carolina pri­mary, hav­ing en­dorsed Mario Ru­bio, and said sharp things about Mr. Trump. “Dur­ing anx­ious times,” she said, “it can be tempt­ing to fol­low the siren call of the an­gri­est voices. We must re­sist that temp­ta­tion.”

Mr. Trump un­leashed a Twit­ter at­tack. “The peo­ple of South Carolina are em­bar­rassed by Nikki Ha­ley!” he tweeted an­grily. But that was for­got­ten by both of them when Mr. Trump as­sem­bled his Cab­i­net. He needed some­one who knew how to speak up, even to him. She learned in South Carolina, as only a gov­er­nor can, how to twist arms to rally sup­port.

Some­one asked her the other day whether she had to twist arms to bring Rus­sia and China along on the sanc­tions vote. She replied with one word: “Lots.” Suzanne Fields is a colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Times and is na­tion­ally syn­di­cated.

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