A Farewell to Ambassador Nikki Haley

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Will Ambassador Haley be missed? Writing in The Intercept, Mehdi Hasan says she was no moderate. Zak Cheney-Rice calls her the “GOP’s Doomed Flirtation with Racial Inclusiveness” and an olive branch to build support among non-white groups. And former UN ambassador  Bill Richardson believes Haley’s statement that she needed a break to be with family–but added “its probably the best job in the administration.”

At the same time, the NYT Editorial Board lays out a balanced case but overall says yes, she managed to hold her own with Rex Tillerson as well as Larry Kudlow, who apologized for his mistake.

While Mr. Trump’s America First policy is a harsh rejection of multilateralism, many United Nations diplomats valued Ms. Haley as a pragmatic envoy who could explain the president to a world confused by the chaos in Washington. She also developed a good relationship with António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, and helped avoid what could have been a breakdown between the United States and the United Nations.

She protected some of the American investment in the United Nations against the most drastic budget cuts sought by the White House, while also working to reform the United Nations bureaucracy, a longtime American bipartisan goal and also a priority for Mr. Guterres. She also managed the effort to pass tough new sanctions on North Korea.

via Opinion | Nikki Haley Will Be Missed – The New York Times

Called “one of the most visible fades of the Trump administration’s foreign policy” Haley lobbied, advocated, communicated, and raised her profile, without a doubt. Now she has resigned.

The French Ambassador to the UN, Francois Delattre was quoted in the WSJ as noting her “exceptional political instincts and skills” in bureaucracy-busting moves where she “put the finger right away on the two key questions that nobody wanted to address.”

One part of her legacy may be her “authoritarian approach” playing hardball in working to reform the Human Rights Council. Colum Lynch explains how the US failed to make any progress in Geneva and alienated major NGO groups in an effort to block what many consider to be the groups major weakness in electing countries with poor track records.

Meanwhile, names are being floated as successors: Dina Powell, Richard Grenell, Jon Huntsman, Heather Nauert, Sen. Joe Lieberman but Robbie Gramer reports that her successor will have a hard time measuring up to her impact due to the power vacuum that has been filled by Sec State Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton.

Decolonization’s Dilemma in Questions of National Identity

In a strange reversal of what was thought to be a process leading to new national self-determination and stability, Israel faces a modern dilemma: to be democratic or Jewish.

The modern era endowed countries with two rights, supposedly unassailable, that turned out to exist in tension. The right of national self-determination envisioned states as unified collectives; one nation for one people. And the right of democracy prescribed equal participation for all, including in defining the nation’s character.

Idealistic world leaders who set out those rights a century ago imagined countries that would be internally homogeneous and static. But reality has proved messier. Borders do not perfectly align with populations. People move. Identities shift or evolve. What then?

Who is Laszlo Szombatfalvy and Why Does He Want to Build a New UN?

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What kinds of ideas could replace the UN? In a major competition sponsored by the Global Challenges Foundation, the Sweden-based group, a number of  thought leaders give it a try. This year, $5M was awarded for the selected ideas.

The prize, he said, is not aimed at finding whole solutions to global threats such as climate change, wars and poverty, but rather “a model or mechanism that could provide the solutions”.

via Want to solve global crises? $5 million prize seeks fresh ideas | Reuters

One interesting submission from Cristián Gimenez Corte, an international lawyer from Argentina who has worked at International Narcotics Control Board, UN Office of Drugs and Crime, UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (all in Vienna) and the UN Office of Legal affairs (NY). In “Shake It Up: The Case for Reforming the United Nations (A Real Global Governance Model) suggests:

  • Create a new executive body that has the authority to make decisions on global governance.
  • Change the financial structure away from national contributions toward an international tax on financial transcactions and the use of global public goods.
  • Reform career paths toward a structured approach–similar to how other ministries of foreign affairs operate as well as lose its privileged legal status so as to be subject to national courts.

He has a number of fresh ideas that, admittedly, would be difficult to implement in the current political environment–but offer some good, clear thinking. For example, picking a super-statesman as the next Secretary General, rather than a manager from within the ranks as some past leaders have been–would require a great deal of political will and doesn’t seem possible. But his report–as well as others both broaden the discussion and tread on a wide range of difficult paths that should be considered.

Other notable submissions with some great ideas include the following:

How would you fix the UN? One thought: “Bringing in new partners”–an idea that Samarasinghe suggests, citing UNICEF and ILO as good examples–is the kind of innovative thinking that is needed.

#REXIT

When President Trump announced the decision to pick a Sec State from Exxon, bringing private sector talent to the country’s foremost institution of diplomatic power, many were skeptical. I shared those concerns–but one friend pushed back, wondering why someone with business background couldn’t succeed in such an important position at the top of government service? I decided to withhold judgement, to give him a chance.

Time has proved Tillerson to be a very weak Secretary. Dan Drezner writes today in WaPo, and it’s even worse than many imagined:

Spoiler Alerts has written a fair amount about Tillerson’s incompetence and ineffectiveness as secretary of state. He was so incompetent that I called for him to resign in August. I would wager that everything I said in that column holds with greater force today. His influence within the administration waned over time. His proposed redesign of the State Department was botched, and botched badly. His incompetent management of Foggy Bottom helped trigger an exodus of seasoned Foreign Service officers and crushed morale among the remaining diplomats. It seemed as though he could not visit a region without saying something that offended his hosts. There is no signature idea or doctrine or accomplishment that Tillerson can point to as part of his legacy. He was woefully unprepared for the job on Day One and barely moved down the learning curve. His incompetence undercut his ability to advance any worthwhile policy instinct.

via “Five Thoughts on the Firing of Rex Tillerson

Drezner quotes Peter Baker and Gardiner Harris who pile on, too:

But perhaps the most puzzling part of Mr. Tillerson’s tenure was his poor oversight of the State Department. As a former top business executive, his managerial skills were thought to be his chief asset.

But he failed to quickly pick a trusted team of leaders, left many critical departments without direction and all but paralyzed crucial decision making in the department.

He approved one global conclave in Washington just eight days before the event was to start, ensuring that few leaders from around the world were able to attend. He rarely sat for comprehensive briefings with many of his top diplomats and often failed to consult the State Department’s experts on countries before visiting.

Foreign diplomats — starting with the British and the French — said Mr. Tillerson neither returned phone calls or, with much advance warning, set up meetings with his counterparts. Strategic dialogues with many nations, including nuclear weapons powers like Pakistan, were ended without explanation.

via NYT

Some like David Frum, wonder about the connection between the timing of Tillerson’s firing and the Russia criticisms. Others are parsing the personnel aftermath, wondering what this means for the globalists v nationalist street fight amidst Trump’s appointments. Meanwhile, State Department staff have been told to “freeze further amplification of content that features (Secretary Tillerson)“–which may be the strangest line of all in a Twitter-driven Presidency.

“I think he really will go down as one of the worst secretaries of State we’ve had,” Eliot Cohen, counselor to the State Department under President George W. Bush, told Axios’s Jonathan Swan. “He will go down as the worst Secretary of State in history,” tweeted Ilan Goldenberg, an Obama-era State Department official. [Vox]

Illustration by Matt Wuerker, Politico

How The Middle East Got That Way: Fromkin Used History to Explain Politics

If you haven’t read A Peace to End All Peace, add it to your summer reading list immediately. David Fromkin, a professor of International Relations at Boston University is a prolific author and scholar whose book provides a historical look at the creation of the modern Middle East–with an eye toward geography, conflict, and the decisions taken post-WWI the shaped the regions storied history.

In a Foreign Affairs review of the book, John C. Campbell writes that “Fromkin’s history is made by men rather than impersonal forces.”

 

Fromkin wrote about other seminal issues in 20th century international relations, such as the origins of the Great War, post-war relations and reconstruction, and the fate of key theoretical constructs such as idealism and realism, as embodied in institutions and programs:

In 1995, he wrote “In the Time of the Americans: F.D.R., Truman, Eisenhower, Marshall, MacArthur — the Generation That Changed America’s Role in the World,” in which he argued that after World War II Americans were given a rare second chance to correct the shortcomings of Woodrow Wilson’s one-world idealism.

As Richard Reeves wrote in The New York Times Book Review, “The United Nations is Wilsonian; NATO represents the kind of big-power peace enforcement envisioned by T.R.”Among Professor Fromkin’s other books were “Europe’s Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914?” (2004), which the journalist Avedis Hadjian, writing for CNN.com, called “a fast-paced, gripping guide through the complex set of reasons and emotions that led to the 20th century’s seminal conflict”; and “The King and the Cowboy: Theodore Roosevelt and Edward the Seventh, Secret Partners” (2008).

Geek out with the Architecture of Legislative Bodies.

Of course the UN General Assembly Hall is recognizable, but what does its semi-circle shape mean? Apparently, its one of the oldest–and a neoclassical go to for fostering consensus and democratic engagement.

The architecture of a legislative body tells a lot about how governance works in each respective body. A new book by Max Cohen de Lara and David Mulder van der Vegt explains, including their methodology:

To answer that question, we spent six years collecting the architectural layout for each one of those buildings. We’ve published our findings in our book “Parliament.” By comparing these plans in detail, we wanted to understand how a political culture is both shaped by and expressed through architecture. Organized as a lexicon, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, the book for the first time allows a comparison of all national parliaments in the world.We found a clear pattern. Although each of the 193 United Nations member states has a parliament of some kind — albeit with varying degrees of democracy — their plenary chambers have a very limited number of shapes. Most surprisingly, these buildings have hardly changed since the 19th century.

Source: These 5 architectural designs influence every legislature in the world — and tell you how each governs – The Washington Post

The regional parliament of Nordrhein Westphalia, Germany

Also, don’t miss the website for the book, Parliament, to see schematics of a number of UN Member State’s legislative body, and even the UN in Geneva and interactive photos, facts, and more. Great stuff for policy geeks, parliamentarians, and designers interested in civic engagement and proxemics.