America Forfeits Its Influence at the U.N.

Nikki Haley's withdrawal from the Human Rights Council might feel good, but it leaves America weaker and worse off.

When Nikki Haley was tapped by President Donald Trump to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, most who were in the know scratched their heads. The governor of South Carolina seemed like a strange pick for this very important job—and not only because Haley had sparred with Trump during the 2016 Republican presidential primary. Unlike Richard Holbrooke and John Negroponte, Haley wasn’t plucked from the State Department’s diplomatic corps. And unlike Madeleine Albright and Susan Rice, she had very little—if any—foreign policy experience.

Haley, however, has proven herself to be a survivor, hitting the U.N. every chance she gets while ingratiating herself to Trump, who bemoans multilateral institutions in general and the United Nations in particular. From her very first speech in which she told U.N. members states (allies and adversaries alike) that “for those who don’t have our backs, we’re taking names,” Ambassador Haley has been the chief enforcer of the president’s America First foreign policy vision. Anyone can wail about the U.N. in the State Department briefing room, but Haley is in the eye of the storm, poking the international body—and doing it proudly—from within.

Haley’s latest broadside occurred this week when she announced the withdrawal of the United States from the U.N. Human Rights Council, a collection of 47 nations that focus on—you guessed it—human rights violations around the world. The U.N. as a whole is often depicted as a bunch of incompetents who suck the American taxpayer dry, and the Human Rights Council, which has featured some of the world’s worst abusers of human rights, is a standout example of why that image persists. The words and phrases Haley used to describe the Council during her briefing this week—“a protector of human rights abusers“ and a “cesspool of political bias”—are quintessential Trump and a reflection of the widespread conservative opposition to the Council ever since it was established 12 years ago.

America’s departure from the Council, of course, didn’t come out of nowhere. It was only a matter of time before Washington withdrew. Ambassador Haley has used the body as her proverbial punching bag from the beginning. And the Council’s intense focus—some would call it an unhealthy obsession—on Israel’s actions in the Palestinian Territories grates on Republicans and Democrats alike. Nations widely regarded as major human rights abusers (Egypt, China, Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, and Pakistan) have either served or are serving as members. Even the U.N.’s greatest admirers would admit that the Council has problems, the least of which is its pathetic criteria for membership.

Haley wanted those problems addressed. She hoped to work with European allies to introduce more stringent vetting so countries with industrial-scale torture regimes weren’t able to be elected. She wanted Israel off the permanent agenda. When it became obvious that other members were not willing to cooperate, she chose the nuclear option.

It’s still far too early to tell whether the administration’s decision will pay off. The benefits of withdrawal are clear enough: the American delegation will no longer have to sit in the room and listen to lectures about human rights coming from countries that are, strangely enough, human rights violators.

The costs, however, outweigh whatever symbolic and moral benefits Washington has accrued. Absent from the table, the United States is no longer a player. Crimes that America wishes to bring to the Council’s attention may now be ignored altogether. Israel will be even more exposed to censure. The Trump administration is forfeiting its right to influence whatever debates are on the Council’s docket, a sophomoric move that will impact the U.N. human rights agenda. Yet again, the U.S. is isolating itself from the rest of the global community. First it was the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Then it was the Paris climate change and Iran nuclear agreements. Now it’s the Human Rights Council.

For Nikki Haley, this is a personal win and a nice notch on her belt as she thinks about her political future. For the United States, it’s something altogether less encouraging.

Daniel R. DePetris is a foreign policy analyst, a columnist at Reuters, and a frequent contributor to The American Conservative.

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36 Responses to America Forfeits Its Influence at the U.N.

  1. FJR says:

    Nikki Haley called the council a “protector of human-rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias,” Or as Groucho used to say, “I wouldn’t want to be in a club that would have someone like me as a member.”

  2. Roy Fassel says:

    Nikki Haley is a person who could probably beat Trump for the Republican primary. It will be interesting to see whether she has the stomach to go through the turmoil to do it.

  3. Myron Hudson says:

    “The benefits of withdrawal are clear enough: the American delegation will no longer have to sit in the room and listen to lectures about human rights coming from countries that are, strangely enough, human rights violators.”

    I agree that this is a good thing. Of course given some of our own actions, e.g. participating in the destruction of Yemen, separating asylum-seeking families, we might not belong there either – assuming that having a perfect record on human rights is a pre-requisite. It could be that withdrawing gives us cover for what we do and what we intend to do.

    “Absent from the table, the United States is no longer a player.”

    Well, that applies to more than human rights, doesn’t it?

  4. Watch and Wait says:

    “the American delegation will no longer have to sit in the room and listen to lectures about human rights coming from countries that are, strangely enough, human rights violators.”

    Best of all, we ourselves won’t have to deliver lectures defending human rights violators. Israel springs to mind for obvious reasons, but one might mention Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or the Emirates.

  5. charles cosimano says:

    If a statement from a UN committee were to ever actually matter, then the point could be seen. As the reality is, when the UN speaks, everyone laughs.

  6. Johann says:

    We need to get out of the UN. Period. Its one big massive joke.

  7. Brian says:

    Can you offer a single example of this council having been effective at their mission…..?

  8. American politicians generally are exceptionally stupid as a rule, but this woman astounds the imagination with here complete and total ignorance of everything that she discusses. This began long before she got to the U.N., and it is a startling example of the total indifferent of Donald Trump to what benefits our country rather than his own ego.

  9. David says:

    This article relies on the assumption that the US currently has influence at the Council. It doesn’t.

  10. Closing Time says:

    The less influence we have on the UN the better. We’re a bad influence on the UN.

    In fact, it would be even better if we emptied out the Secretariat in New York and quit the UN altogether. We’d save a few bucks, and we wouldn’t have to see video of Nikki Haley saying something disgusting at dinnertime.

  11. Sid Finster says:

    So, what’s the down side?

  12. WorkingClass says:

    I like to think that Nikki Haley’s withdrawal from the Human Rights Council was done in shame for the needless death and destruction in the Middle East and North Africa caused by America’s wars for Israel.

  13. soon-to-be pensioner says:

    Haley’s statements at the UN remind us that creeps like Ilya Rosenberg and Joseph Goebbels weren’t the last of the evil mouthpieces. It’s a human type, and it is apt to appear in almost any place or age. In ours it’s Nikki Haley, eyes on the prize while she says whatever it takes.

    That she won’t befoul the Human Rights Council with her defenses of child murder and starving and butchering of unarmed civilians anymore is a blessing. So let us count it as one. And if other monsters leave the Council, so much the better.

  14. soon-to-be pensioner says:

    Correction – “Rosenberg” should be “Ehrenburg” …

  15. Tiktaalik says:

    soon-to-be pensioner
    what’s wrong with Ehrenburg? Why do you equate him with Goebbels?

  16. cka2nd says:

    “Nations widely regarded as major human rights abusers (Egypt, China, Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, and Pakistan)”

    Venezuela and Cuba are nowhere near the human rights abusers that Columbia and Honduras are.

    Frankly, the weakening of the USA’s influence in the world is something to be wished for, devoutly, by anyone interested in reducing the number of people killed and impoverished worldwide. Americans should be no less pleased by a weakening of our country’s influence around the world, as that might finally force a reduction in the size of the military industrial complex and the closing of the hundreds of American military bases around the world.

    Now if only the Donald can avoid bombing or invading any more countries, he might end up doing some good.

  17. cka2nd says:

    cka2nd says: “Now if only the Donald can avoid bombing or invading any more countries, he might end up doing some good.”

    Given his support for the ongoing war on Yemen, I shouldn’t have written this. Sorry, it’s just to flippant.

  18. Tiktaalik says:

    American masters are being ‘unjustly’ criticized all the time. That calls for a swift retaliation, absolutely.

    It’s beyond pale

  19. Tiktaalik says:

    >> She hoped to work with European allies to introduce more stringent vetting so countries with industrial-scale torture regimes weren’t able to be elected.

    In the case of the USA with its government policy of torturing she managed to clean the council a bit even w/o help of European allies.

  20. polistra says:

    We don’t need “influence” at the UN. We just need to get out, and kick it out of our country. The UN has never done anything good or even neutral. Everything it touches dies.

  21. JohnT says:

    I’m from S.C. Princess Haley went from lobbyist for the S.C. Hospital Association to Governor of S.C. Once the princess found her right spot in the Governor’s mansion she set about lecturing we cake eaters about the value of hard work and sacrifice.
    Plainly put she is at core the very hypocrite you image her to be. All, and I do mean all, American participation in wars in the Middle East have been about oil not democracy.

  22. soon-to-be pensioner says:

    @Tiktaalik – “what’s wrong with Ehrenburg?”

    He specialized in this kind of thing:

    “Kill! Kill! In the German race there is nothing but evil; not one among the living, not one among the yet unborn but is evil! Follow the precepts of Comrade Stalin. […] Use force and break the racial pride of these German women. Take them as your lawful booty. Kill! … ”

    Maybe that’s your cup of tea. It’s not mine.

    “Why do you equate him with Goebbels?”

    That’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?

  23. Anthony M. says:

    It’s endlessly entertaining for me when Americans criticize the UN as if it’s not almost completely controlled by America in the first place. Maybe soon we’ll be blessed by the American government resigning from its permanent position on the security council.

  24. Barry says:

    “the American delegation will no longer have to sit in the room and listen to lectures about human rights coming from countries that are, strangely enough, human rights violators.”

    You mean the sort of ‘strong leaders’ that Trump and the U.N.-haters all love?

    The sort of ‘strong leaders’ to which the US is eager to sell, ah – ‘implemented interrogation’ goodies?

  25. Thaomas says:

    Ask why dissing the UN “might feel good” to “Conservatives.”

  26. Tiktaalik says:

    @soon-to-be pensioner
    >>“Kill! Kill! In the German race there is nothing but evil; not one among the living, not one among the yet unborn but is evil! Follow the precepts of Comrade Stalin. […] Use force and break the racial pride of these German women. Take them as your lawful booty. Kill! … ”

    I’m very sorry but it’s complete BS. At the moment you’re retranslating German propaganda

    Actually, he wrote (original,you can use Google translate)
    “Мы знаем все. Мы помним все. Мы поняли: немцы не люди. Отныне слово “немец” для нас самое страшное проклятье. Отныне слово “немец” разряжает ружье. Не будем говорить. Не будем возмущаться. Будем убивать. Если ты не убил за день хотя бы одного немца, твой день пропал. Если ты думаешь, что за тебя немца убьет твой сосед, ты не понял угрозы. Если ты не убьешь немца, немец убьет тебя. Он возьмет твоих и будет мучить их в своей окаянной Германии. Если ты не можешь убить немца пулей, убей немца штыком. Если на твоем участке затишье, если ты ждешь боя, убей немца до боя. Если ты оставишь немца жить, немец повесит русского человека и опозорит русскую женщину. Если ты убил одного немца, убей другого – нет для нас ничего веселее немецких трупов. Не считай дней. Не считай верст. Считай одно: убитых тобою немцев. Убей немца! – это просит старуха-мать. Убей немца! – это молит тебя дитя. Убей немца! – это кричит родная земля. Не промахнись. Не пропусти. Убей! ”

    Sure enough, no ‘German women as a booty’, ‘racial pride’, ‘yet unborn evils’ and, surprise, ‘precepts of comrade Stalin’

    And, given the date, Jul 1942, it’s obviously directed at German soldiers at the very height of their last major offensive. These very German soldiers which had already ravaged the Soviet Union for one year.

    No, I can’t see any equality.

  27. cka2nd says:

    soon-to-be pensioner says: “Maybe that’s your cup of tea. It’s not mine.”

    Ehrenburg wrote those words in 1942, right, with much of the European part of the USSR under German occupation? That same year, he also wrote “The German soldier with weapon in hand is not a man for us, but a fascist. We hate him […] When the German soldier gives up his weapon and surrenders, we will not touch him with a finger – he will live.” Given the level of anti-Japanese racism in U.S. propaganda during World War II, I’m not sure I can fault Ehrenburg too much for something written in a far more dangerous situation, especially since it doesn’t seem to have been generally indicative of his work (unlike Goebbels).

    Just from perusing his Wikipedia page, I’d say Ehrenburg was an interesting character, with a career filled with ups and downs, and not a little courage for taking on the Stalin personality cult only a year after Stalin’s death, and two years before Khrushchev’s speech denouncing Stalin. A complex person, in other words.

  28. Hector_St_Clare says:

    “Kill! Kill! In the German race there is nothing but evil; not one among the living, not one among the yet unborn but is evil! Follow the precepts of Comrade Stalin. […] Use force and break the racial pride of these German women. Take them as your lawful booty. Kill! … ”

    I don’t think Ilya Ehrenburg ever said that. Susan Brownmiller, who’s as much a hard-line feminist as you’ll find and had no reason to downplay incitement to rape, said she couldn’t find that text in any of Ehrenburg’s published work.

  29. Hudson West says:

    Lord spare us from more of Haley’s embarrassing and degrading behavior at the UN.

  30. Tiktaalik says:

    @Hector_St_Clare, @cka2nd
    But Ehrenburg had never said that. It’s just recitation of 3rd Reich propaganda, and (e.g.)it can be easily seen by completely impossible in the Soviet propaganda ‘let their women be your booty’.
    This ‘quote’ went right from well known Nazi propaganda digests.

  31. John says:

    Influence? Please. We have no influence at all when it comes to human rights, and probably less of a leg to stand on.

  32. soon-to-be pensioner says:

    @Tiktaalit : “this ‘quote’ went right from well known Nazi propaganda digests”

    Look, this isn’t controversial. Goebbels vs Ehrenburg — masters of slime and murderous filth, battling it out. When you suggest that this wasn’t really broadcast by the Soviet propaganda-meister, it’s really Nazi propaganda twisting what he really said, my eyes start to glaze over.

    Here’s why. Consider Ehrenburg’s own denial of having urged Soviet soldiers to rape their way to Berlin:

    “A blond witch

    The commander of the German Army Group “Nord” addressed his Fritzes with the following order: “Ilya Ehrenburg calls the Asians “drink the blood of German women.” Ilya Ehrenburg demands that Asians enjoy our women, “Take the blond women – it’s your booty.” Ilya Ehrenburg wakes the basest instincts of the steppe. Anyone who will retreat now is a scoundrel, for German soldiers are protecting their own wives now.”

    Sometime ago the Germans forged documents of state importance. Now they sunk to the point that they are faking my articles. The quotes that the German general attributes to me expose the author: only a German would be able to compose such a dirty thing.

    Fritzes are professional rapists, fornicators with solid experience, hereditary baboons. They have polluted the whole of Europe. In vain the General is insisting that we go to Germany after German females. We are not attracted to Gretchens, only to those Fritzes who abused our women, and we say bluntly that for these Germans there will be no mercy. As for the German women, they evoke in us only one feeling: disgust. We despise the German women for what they are – mothers, wives and sisters of the executioners. We despise the German women for what they wrote to their sons, husbands and brothers, “Send your honey a pretty fur coat.” We despise the German women for what they are: thieves and prostitutes.

    We do not need blond hyenas. We’re going to Germany for something else: for Germany itself. And this blond witch is not going to escape from us.”

    In brief, “I didn’t say that German women are your lawful booty. That’s outrageous! I said merely that the all German women are prostitutes and the blond witch will not escape from us.”

    Ah. I see.

    So far as I know, no one denies he wrote that. Why bother?

    You’re welcome to attempt some moral distinction as between Ehrenburg and Goebbels, but it’s unlikely to register on the moral compass of normal folk. These aren’t the words of an “interesting”, “complex” man, a poor fellow who was misunderstood because of Nazi propagandists. They are the words of a piece of human garbage.

    As suggested earlier, Goebbels and Ehrenburg are two sides of the same coin. And when Haley straight-facedly defends what “allies” like Saudi Arabia are doing in Yemen or Israel in Gaza, she invites comparisons to them.

  33. Tiktaalik says:

    @soon-to-be pensioner
    so you couldn’t find any evidence of ‘take German woman as lawful booty, all unborn Germans are criminals as well’ other than in desperate propaganda of Nazi officers?
    Small wonder, thanks for confirming my previous statements.

    And no, no equation between Ehrenburg and Goebbels.

  34. Tiktaalik says:

    >>Send your honey a pretty fur coat.” We despise the German women for what they are: thieves and prostitutes.

    Again, off the mark.
    In the original text it’s not a prostitute per se, it’s a criminal prostitute who colludes with other criminals and participates in robbery (see ‘fur coat’ above).

  35. soon-to-be pensioner says:

    @Tiktaalik “And no, no equation between Ehrenburg and Goebbels.”

    Let’s make it simple:

    Propagandist for Stalin.
    Propagandist for Hitler.
    Both wrote blood-curdling trash and lies.

    End of story. The equation is obvious.

  36. maria says:

    As an exile from a communist gulag, I find it truly amazing that Americans compare the USA to other countries regarding Human Rights. The USA is far from perfect, granted, no organization or country operated by human beings will ever attain perfection, it not our nature. I have never seen, however poor or “oppressed” Americans jumping into shark infested waters to escape our system. Stop being so infantile, it is unbecoming an adult population.

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