​​​​​​​Vigliotti: The right woman and right policy — Nikki Haley and Constructivism

President Donald Trump has been proven right to have selected popular conservative then-governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, to be United States ambassador to the United Nations.

In December, Haley made the courageous decision at the UN Security Council to veto — with her hand raised, alone — a nonbinding resolution intended to humiliate the United States of America over the president’s decision to rightfully recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Under such immense global pressure, surrounded by strong-willed opponents, Haley could have abstained or even voted with everyone else — but she chose, instead, to lead and defend the autonomy of the United States.


It was a decision, expectedly, opposed by many American liberals; and it was a decision that was, unsurprisingly, condemned, slammed or opposed by many American friends and allies. Three main arguments against Haley seemed more prevalent than others: that America was “going it alone” by “acting unilaterally”; that Israel cannot be dealt with exceptionally; and that all nations must be treated equally.

All three arguments are unsound. It is not that America acts alone or the number of supporters which matters, but the rightness of the cause which counts. It does matter that the United States deals with Israel on an exceptional level because Israel has exceptionally demonstrated time and time again true loyalty, friendship and support of the United States. All countries cannot be treated equally: There is no moral comparison or equivalence of friendship between a nation like Israel or England, and a nation like North Korea or Iran.

Haley, and the president, are likewise neither acting in a pragmatic sense as others have argued. True, they want a good deal for America in the world, but they will not do so at the expense of ethics (as a pragmatist might do). So far, they have approached international relations and diplomacy with a largely constructivist approach: that the character, ideas, beliefs, society, culture, institutions, history and nature of a country will determine how the United States deals with that country. In such a world, nations that are true, free and friendly, will be treated in a far different way than nations which are dishonest, repressive and antagonistic. A pragmatist would have walked away from Israel at the United Nations. Haley chose to stand with Israel.

Haley’s decision to do so underscores not only the foreign policy implications and possibilities of the Trump presidency, but denotes a far greater understanding of international relations and affairs than many give the president or the ambassador credit for. It was a constructivist path charted by President Ronald Reagan during the 1980s in which the United States went out of its way to befriend and support countries trapped behind the Iron Curtain, and countries which were just throwing off the tyrannical control of the Soviet Union. This is why the United States, in the present day, has such true, loyal and courageous friends in most of the nations of Eastern Europe.

Haley has also demonstrated something else quite clearly: that “America First” was not just about American leaders putting their American constituents first — but by Americans being first in leading the world toward the right goal. Since Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem, and Haley’s courageous defiance against the majority of the UN, a number of other countries have stepped forward to say that they, too, will move their embassies to Jerusalem. As Reagan led the way in the 1980s, so now do Haley and Trump have the mantle to lead the way in the late 2010s. A tough stance toward North Korea is not, as critics predicted, isolating that country, but impelling communication. As of this writing, North Korea has reestablished contact with South Korea — for the first time in years.

The last few days have seen an uproar over the president’s “bigger button” tweet, with opponents challenging his mental fitness and warning that the tweet could undermine a “thaw” in relations at best and cause a nuclear war at worst. While the tweet may not have been tactful or presidential, it should be remembered that the improvement in America’s standing, and the “thaw” in relations occurred in the first place because of the strong stance the president and the ambassador to the UN took regarding international affairs — things which these opponents said would not work and would not lead to reestablished contact between North and South Korea. Tweets aside, opponents have to concede that the ground from which they currently argue was established by Trump and Haley.

It is from that ground that Haley now so faithfully represents America and leads at the United Nations. Courage is rarely ever easy, and doing the right thing is often the most difficult thing to do. Yet the summons for such leadership was answered by Haley, who, on a world stage, singularly defended not only the United States’ right to self-determination in its affairs, but who defended the right thing to do by recognizing Jerusalem. Ambassador Nikki Haley is not just a role model for women, but for men as well. She is an exemplary American, who holds to truth, courage, responsibility, loyalty and patriotism.

In time, it is quite probable that she will be leading from the White House.