Ambassador Haley, the modern Moynihan

America is lucky to have a modern Moynihan in Nikki Haley, who is fearless, eloquent, incorruptible and honorable.

US AMBASSADOR to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks following a vote at the Security Council (photo credit: REUTERS)
US AMBASSADOR to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks following a vote at the Security Council
(photo credit: REUTERS)
America’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, is visiting Israel this week. This rookie diplomat has already distinguished herself as one of the few sane inmates in the world’s loony bin on New York’s East River. She has boldly condemned the United Nations for protecting benighted nations and indicting enlightened nations, especially Israel.
Inevitably, Ambassador Haley’s colleagues – in the State Department and the UN – will try taming her, branding her with the dirtiest word in their vocabulary: “undiplomatic.” She should take the compliment, emboldened by her predecessor Daniel Patrick Moynihan, another heroic outsider. When Moynihan served in the 1970s, he showed that effective diplomacy requires a range of weapons, only one of which is appeasement.
Moynihan scoffed when diplomats chided him for defending America, democracy, decency, Israel, too passionately. Told to “tone down,” he wondered, what does that mean “when you are faced with an outright lie about the United States and we go in and say this is not true. Now, how do you tone that down? Do you say it is only half untrue? What kind of people are we? What kind of people do they think we are?” Today’s Western wimpiness was just beginning in Moynihan’s day. Following the 1960s’ ideological and political revolutions, Western countries – especially America and Israel – were found perpetually guilty.
Meanwhile, developing nations were automatically innocent – especially the Palestinians, despite their terrorism addiction. Racial reductionism reinforced this guilt gap. Despite the country’s racial variety, Israelis were cast as “white” and thus privileged, discounting any suffering they endured. Palestinians were cast as “brown,” thus oppressed, and forever vindicated.
All this, even though the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is national, not racial.
This culture of blame perverted international diplomacy – and continues to distort peace efforts. This week, an Israeli and a Palestinian issued a peace manifesto in The Jerusalem Post with a characteristic blind spot. Former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg “acknowledge[ d] the immense tragedy of the Palestinian People that was born along with the birth of my state,” writing: “I feel regret and accept my partial responsibility for this devastation of hundreds of communities.”
Ahmad Majdalani of the PLO Executive Committee responding by feeling “sadness about the Holocaust.”
This manipulative sidestep shirked responsibility for the thousands of Israelis murdered by Palestinian terrorists, as well as decades of Palestinians’ delegitimizing Israel and spurning compromise.
Moynihan, a proud JFK-LBJ liberal, had no patience for such liberal self-flagellation – or guilt-ridden white liberal condescension toward non-whites.
“The elite intelligentsia of the country are turning against the country – in science, in politics, in the fundaments of patriotism,” he noted, fearing: “How can we not pay for this?” Watching the ritualistic muggings of democracies in the UN, he observed: “Many believe that our assailants are motivated by what is wrong about us. They are wrong. We are assailed because of what is right about us. We are assailed because we are a democracy.”
Moynihan saw that the world’s venomous anti-Zionism had many liberals wondering what was wrong with Israel. Refusing to blame the victim, Moynihan was not interested in “the accused at all but the accusers.”
Resolution 3379, the offensive General Assembly resolution singling out one form of nationalism, Zionism, in the forum of nationalisms, and labeling it racism, “reeked of the totalitarian mind, stank of the totalitarian state.”
While a Harvard professor, Moynihan had never gotten one of those fun free trips to Israel. He wrote, “Israel was not my religion. I had never even been there.”
To him, defending Israel was defending America – because America’s enemies were trying to humiliate America by isolating its close friend. To him, defending Israel was defending democracy and decency, because Israel remains the only real democracy in the Middle East. And to him, defending Israel was defending “civilized values that are or should be precious to all,” because he saw – and predicted correctly – the attacks on Israel were politicizing “that whole body of moral and legal precepts which we know as human rights.”
Although Moynihan fought honorably and effectively, his passionate defense of democracy so upset his American bosses he only served eight months.
As he predicted, words like “racism” and “self-determination” have been drained of their meaning, often distorted beyond recognition. Furthermore, as he warned, “Whether Israel was responsible, Israel surely would be blamed: openly by some, privately by most.
Israel would be regretted.”
After his UN stint, Moynihan represented New York in the Senate for four terms. Some of his successors at the UN followed his lead, especially the Republican John Bolton and the Democrat Jeane Kirkpatrick, who in the 1980s bashed the “Blame America First crowd” (inspiring my attacks on Blame Israel Firsters). Clearly, cultivating national pride is a bipartisan enterprise.
America is lucky to have a modern Moynihan in Nikki Haley, who is fearless, eloquent, incorruptible and honorable.
“Did I make a crisis out of this obscene resolution?” Moynihan would bellow when accused of having picked a fight. “Damn right I did!” Noting that his boss, Henry Kissinger, America’s first Jewish secretary of state, frequently undermined his efforts, Moynihan quipped: “An Issue of Honor, of Morality, was put before us, and not all of us ran.”
Ambassador Haley has shown that she too stands for honor, morality and principle, and will not run. Let’s hope she doesn’t have to stand alone, lasts longer than eight months, but runs – for higher office!
The writer is the author of the award-winning Moynihan’s Moment: America’s Fight Against Zionism as Racism. His forthcoming book, The Zionist Ideas, which updates Arthur Hertzberg’s classic work, will be published by The Jewish Publication Society in Spring 2018. He is a Distinguished Scholar of North American History at McGill University. Follow on Twitter @GilTroy.