In the current political landscape, it is tough to imagine any politician delivering controversial statements in a calm and rational way. The twenty-ninth United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, did the unimaginable at the International House this past Thursday. Her argumentation strategies give her the unique role of a diplomatic conservative, a role that contrasts with the heavy-handed one President Donald Trump is playing today. When she gave some background on past ambassadors’ relations and actions, she differentiated herself from them by emphasizing her hope to show the American people the importance of both the United Nations and international diplomacy.
Haley spent some time talking about the United States’ partnership with the United Nations and the role our funding should be playing globally. “We should get something in return for our investment,” she stressed, “Something of value.” Her perspective on international relationship was comparable to the president’s in its business-like approach. As an idealist and a former accountant, she emphasizes the importance of quantifiable value. For example, sanctions against North Korea are valuable in the fact that they stop the revenue streams that support the Kim dictatorships and their nuclear programs. “The UN works best when the US is not afraid to lead it and stand alone,” she underlined.
It is not always easy to pass resolutions that produce something of value because of the present ideological differences of the ambassadors on the Security Council. Diversity in thought is what the United Nations champions; however, this principle often conflicts with realistic decision making. Russia stands in the way of the condemnation of the gassing of children by Syria. This creates a dilemma for the United States. because Haley is accountable to the American people while other representatives are accountable to governments that are focused on gaining power. Her advice was to not let Russia’s lack of principle take away American ideals. Haley is attempting to change the culture at the United Nations to focus on efficiency and effectiveness in peacekeeping missions. She has been an advocate for ending missions that have been completed and reviewing peacekeeping operations to make sure the goals are being achieved.
David Axelrod came out to interview Haley on his birthday. He began his questions by asking about her perspective on the dramatic move of the American embassy to Jerusalem. Haley emphasized that she serves the American people and the congressional vote represents their decision. Her job is simply to support and defend that decision in the United Nations. Axelrod reminded her that other democrat and republican presidents have kept the embassy in Tel Aviv to avoid intervening in the conflict. Haley replied, “It’s for them to decide whatever they want to do.” Here, she displayed a similar attitude toward the well-known conflict as the president has described himself also the “neutral guy” on the issue. While Israelis have applauded this decision, Palestinians have warned that this could cause extremism to occur in the region.
Next, Axelrod read a question submitted by a student on the Assad regime and chemical weapons. “Who will hold him to account?” he asked. Haley talked about how Russia condemns human rights violations until one of its friends commits them. “Russia has covered for Assad many times.” Axelrod followed up by asking if the president will continue with strikes on Syria after the first. Haley replied that proof of who is initiating the attacks is often hard to get so retaliation cannot be pursued easily and thoughtlessly. Still, it’s important to note that she was comfortable speaking about Russia’s mistakes internationally because she could see the its behavior in the United Nations. Axelrod moved from Syrian chemical weapons to the Syrian refugee crisis. He then delved into the controversial question of immigration.
Haley’s explanation of the immigration issue was rooted in security and the migrant perspective. She spoke about her time visiting Turkey and Jordan and how migrants there have built their own economy in the refugee camps. What they truly want, she explained, is to go home; they see the border. Axelrod related this discussion to another question from a student: how Haley’s parents’ status as immigrants from India affects her perspective on this matter. “Immigration is fabric of America,” she remarked. “But the US is also built as country of laws.” Then Axelrod referenced proposals to cut 40 percent of legal immigration, a process her parents went through. Haley eloquently dodged the question, focusing on security and illegal immigration. She has, however, publicly critiqued the President's aggressive anti-immigration rhetoric in the past.
The event came to close with a discussion of the recent shooting in the Florida high school. Haley experienced a mass shooting during her time as governor and explained there is no way to comprehend the trauma and suffering the families are enduring. She spoke about how what happened in Charleston taught her that it’s important to keep outside influences out. “Out of respect for families, keep politics out.” She reiterated that the second amendment is part of the constitution and focusing on one issue won’t solve the problem of mass shootings. She proposed improvements in background checks adding that social media can be a tool in this process. She had indicated earlier in her speech that “political opponents are not adversaries and are not evil.” Haley respects the youth using the power of their voice to have bigger conversion; her advice for college students was to seek virtue in political differences but focus more on building on what they have in common. Outlining similar thoughts on the gun debate as many of the conservatives in this country, Haley stuck to the principles she has displayed as governor.
Through a thoughtful debate and concessions on points she could not defend with proper evidence, she proved herself a diplomatic representative of the United States. In a political climate that often resorts raising voices in order to express one side’s perspective over the other, she was able to explain some conservative policies with a calmer attitude and logical argumentation. She represented the US administration in a way we rarely get to see today.
Antonia Stefanescu is a Staff Writer for The Gate. The image featured in this article is licensed under the Creative Commons.