Nikki Haley is gone. Long live the Trump doctrine

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL October 14, 2018

Soft breakup. US President Donald Trump meets with outgoing US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley in the Oval Office of the White House, on October 9. (AP)

What does it matter that Nikki Haley stays or leaves her job as US ambassador to the United Nations? So long as Donald Trump is president, American foreign policy consists solely of what he thinks. Period.

With or without Haley at the United Nations, the Trump administration would have done the following: pulled out of the Paris climate agreement; unilaterally recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal, as well as the UN Human Rights Council and UNRWA, the UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees.

With or without Haley, Trump would have tied US funding for countries to their public prostration to American foreign policy goals.

With or without Haley, the Trump administration would have ignored human rights, democracy and rule of law in its big set-piece speeches to the world, in news conferences and in its discussions with foreign diplomats and government officials.

With or without Haley, an increasingly inward-looking America would have stated in early 2017 its disinterest in Syrian President Bashar Assad’s removal from power.

With or without Haley, Trump’s national security principals would have waged a hostile war of words on Iran, raising fears of yet another conflict in the region.

And the Trump administration didn’t really need Haley to tell uncooperative nations the United States would be “taking names” at the slightest bolshie behaviour in the United Nations.

Both as candidate and as president, Trump has repeatedly spelt out the tough rules of his ideal new world order. These include “reciprocity,” a word Trump has used over and over to describe his preferred bilateral equation with foreign countries. The new rules include stumping up cash to the United States, outrageous flattery of Trump and his family and reinterpreting negatives as positives.

With or without Haley, someone in the Trump administration would surely have found a way to categorise the laughter that greeted Trump’s UN General Assembly speech in September as an appreciative rather than a derisive response.

That said, few could have presented a half-truth as fact with the charm and ease of Haley. A good communicator, with a direct gaze that suggests honesty, Haley went on television to describe the mirth as a sign of global respect for an unusually candid American politician. “(T)hey love how honest he is. It’s not diplomatic and they find it funny and they’ve never seen anything like it, so there’s a respect there,” she said.

She worked the same linguistic confidence trick when she resigned on October 9, describing the fear and resentment triggered by Trump’s America as a sign it is “respected” even if some “countries may not like what we do.”

The dislike Haley acknowledges is likely to continue long after she leaves the US delegation to the United Nations. It doesn’t really matter who takes Haley’s place as ambassador. A number of names have been bandied around. Egyptian-born, Arabic-speaking so-called “globalist” Dina Powell, who subsequently refused. Undiplomatic, right-wing ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell. Trump’s daughter Ivanka, whom he described as “dynamite” and more qualified to be ambassador than anyone else “in the world.” However, federal nepotism rules mean this could require a change in the law, which could be possible because Trump’s party controls both houses of Congress.

Accordingly, it could be anyone. No one knows Trump’s preference. Until she withdrew her name from consideration, Powell would supposedly have signified a different direction of US policy compared to Grenell. One would be collegial; the other confrontational. As for Ivanka, she would be her father’s daughter.

What does it matter who replaces Haley? She entered the job with no foreign policy experience, just a collection of Trump’s musings on the world’s alleged unfairness to America. She leaves having helped Trump and his team subcontract order in the Middle East to Israel, Saudi Arabia and Russia and having pulled America back enough to embolden strongmen, warmongers, expansionists, genocidal racists and Islamophobes.

None of this will change after Haley. With or without her, the Trump doctrine will stay as it is so long as he’s in the Oval Office.