Af­ter Nikki Ha­ley, what’s next for UN?

New am­bas­sador won’t have as much free­dom

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS | OPINION - Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokol­sky Aaron David Miller, a vice pres­i­dent at the Woodrow Wil­son In­ter­na­tional Cen­ter for Schol­ars, is a former State De­part­ment ad­viser and a Mid­dle East ne­go­tia­tor. Richard Sokol­sky, a se­nior fel­low at the Carnegie End

The­o­ries are bang­ing around the Belt­way faster than com­muter traf­fic about why Nikki Ha­ley chose to re­sign as the am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions and why she did it now, one month be­fore the midterm elec­tions. There's the term lim­its the­ory that Ha­ley re­ferred to in her for­mal let­ter of res­ig­na­tion; there's the “I need to earn more money the­ory,” par­tic­u­larly af­ter years of pub­lic ser­vice; and then there's this: In the post-Ka­vanaugh hear­ings era, it's not wise to be too closely iden­ti­fied with a pres­i­dent who mocks vic­tims of sex­ual as­sault, par­tic­u­larly if you have pres­i­den­tial as­pi­ra­tions, al­though that prob­lem is go­ing to con­flict with Ha­ley's com­mit­ment to cam­paign for Trump's re-elec­tion. One thing is clear. Un­less the pres­i­dent plans to choose Ivanka Trump (and the gov­ern­ment's nepo­tism pol­icy and smart pol­i­tics are likely to pre­vent that), who­ever gets that job will not have Ha­ley's free­dom to speak out or her im­pact on pol­icy or the pres­i­dent. Amer­ica has had strong am­bas­sadors to the U.N. be­fore — Jeanne Kirkpatrick, John Ne­gro­ponte, Tom Pick­er­ing and John Bolton come to mind. But they func­tioned within a sys­tem that had a greater struc­ture and con­straints than marked Ha­ley's first year. In a way Ha­ley was the lone ranger — a charis­matic woman with high pub­lic ap­proval rat­ings and a close re­la­tion­ship with Trump. She spoke out on is­sues from Iran to Syria to the Is­raeliPales­tinian con­flict, seem­ingly with­out re­gard to en­croach­ing on the nearly in­vis­i­ble Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son and a prac­ti­cally dys­func­tional Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. That party is over. Ha­ley's star started to dim with the ap­point­ments of Mike Pom­peo and Bolton. Trump now has two for­eign­pol­icy heavy­weights — a smart sec­re­tary of State who has a very good re­la­tion­ship with the pres­i­dent and a na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser who has held Ha­ley's job in New York and is well­versed in the art of bu­reau­cratic war­fare. There's scant room for an in­de­pen­dent and out­spo­ken am­bas­sador cross­ing swords with these strong per­son­al­i­ties. Be­fore Ha­ley was a diplo­mat, she was (and still is) a cal­cu­lat­ing and am­bi­tious politi­cian. As a ris­ing star in the Repub­li­can Party, the am­bas­sador was all too happy to check four of Trump's po­lit­i­cal boxes: pleas­ing Is­rael, Chris­tian evan­gel­i­cals, con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans and the Amer­i­can Jewish com­mu­nity, es­pe­cially those with deep pock­ets for GOP causes and can­di­dates. And what's re­mark­able is that she did all of this with a warm and en­gag­ing per­sona, a quick mas­tery of the is­sues and even a ca­pac­ity to chal­lenge the pres­i­dent on is­sues such as Rus­sia with­out suf­fer­ing fa­tal con­se­quences. All of this is a tes­ta­ment to her for­mi­da­ble po­lit­i­cal skills and, even as she car­ried out Trump's poli­cies, an in­de­pen­dent streak. But Ha­ley's suc­ces­sor will not have to op­er­ate un­der the glare of the diplo­matic spot­light. The three big for­eign pol­icy is­sues on the pres­i­dent's plate for the next two years — de­fang­ing Iran, de­nu­cle­ariz­ing North Korea, and de­rail­ing China's ex­pan­sion­ist poli­cies — are po­lit­i­cally charged, so the pol­icy and the diplo­macy will be con­trolled by the White House and the State De­part­ment. Ditto if the White House is suc­cess­ful in re­launch­ing Mid­dle East peace ne­go­ti­a­tions. But sanc­tions pol­icy on both North Korea and Iran will be driven by the Trea­sury De­part­ment, and trade ne­go­ti­a­tions and tar­iff poli­cies will be fought out be­tween the White House and the Com­merce and Trea­sury De­part­ments. Ha­ley's suc­ces­sor will have a seat at the ta­ble, but it might as well be empty be­cause who­ever is cho­sen and no mat­ter how well-spo­ken and qual­i­fied, the new am­bas­sador to the U.N. — un­like Ha­ley — is more than likely to speak softly and carry a small stick.

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