Editorial: Nikki Haley’s signature achievement was to push her job toward irrelevance

President Donald Trump meets with outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Oct. 9.
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Nikki Haley, who on Tuesday announced her resignation as the U.S. representative to the United Nations, was less strident than the president who appointed her — not much of an achievement, given President Trump’s often reckless rhetoric. Haley also worked with diplomats from other nations to achieve some important objectives, including sanctions against North Korea that pressured Pyongyang into negotiations about a possible end to its nuclear weapons program.

But Haley’s abiding contribution in nearly two years at her post was to defend policies that isolated the United States from the U.N. and the international community — and pushed the job toward irrelevance. In her resignation letter, the former South Carolina governor echoed Trump’s campaign slogan by boasting that “we stood strong for American values and interests, always placing America first.“ But like the president, she seems to assume that this country benefits when it refuses to work with other nations. More often, the opposite is true.

In 2017 Haley wielded the U.S. veto to block a Security Council resolution criticizing Trump’s provocative and unnecessary decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a step previous administrations of both parties had refused to take because of the feared consequences for the peace process. The resolution was supported by all of the other members of the Security Council, including France and the United Kingdom.


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Then there is the Iran nuclear accord, which had been endorsed in a Security Council resolution; Haley took a leading role in publicly laying out the case against it. In May, Trump not only followed Haley’s implicit advice, but he also announced that the U.S. was withdrawing from the agreement and would reimpose sanctions on Iran. That reckless decision has unsettled U.S. relations with its European allies, which continue to support the agreement for the simple reason that Iran is complying with its terms.

Finally, Haley and Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo announced in June that the U.S. was withdrawing from the U.N. Human Rights Council, even though she later acknowledged that that body “has brought the injustice suffered by political prisoners to international attention.” She said that the council’s positive contributions were “the exceptions, not the rule,” and that it had “focused its attention unfairly and relentlessly on Israel.” But rather than try to influence the council to be more even-handed, the administration walked away.

This is not a record of which either Trump or Haley can be proud. Her successor will inherit a much diminished position, answering to a president who seems to doubt that this job matters.

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