Nikki Haley is at war with Donald Trump. She may be his ambassador to the United Nations, but she wants to set a foreign policy all her own, closer to the global interventionism of George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton than to the muscular but restrained foreign policy that Trump campaigned on in 2016. Her differences with the president were on stark display this week, as she first announced sanctions against Russia that Trump had not approved, then shot back at the new director of the national economic council, Larry Kudlow, when he offered a diplomatic interpretation of her mistake. Kudlow ascribed her off-message remarks to “some momentary confusion,” to which Haley responded, “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.”
Haley is every Never Trumper’s favourite member of the administration, and the esteem in which she is held by the president’s sworn enemies in his own party ought to put the White House on guard. William Kristol has touted her for years as a presidential prospect and tweets about her challenging and defeating Trump for the Republican nomination two years from now. Media liberals as well as their Never-Trump allies have swarmed to Haley’s defence, though the more left-wing Haley fans call on her to resign from the administration as a show of defiance — or “resistance,” in the melodramatic parlance of those who are still bitter about the way the last election turned out.
As a former South Carolina governor, Haley may seem an unlikely leader for the team that wants to foment worldwide democratic revolution by force of American arms. But then, nothing in George W. Bush’s background as governor of Texas, and little in his campaign-trail rhetoric in 2000, suggested that he would try to turn the Middle East into Switzerland by invading Iraq, either.
The foreign-policy radicals who torched the Middle East think they have an almost divine right to rule — and they are smarter, too, when intelligence is judged by conformity to their own little group’s preferences. That their moral grandstanding and ideological hubris leads to futile wars and anarchy, with entire populations of Middle Eastern Christians wiped out in their historic homelands, is irrelevant to the democratic revolutionaries’ self-esteem. But the voting public has lost its appetite for this bloody dish, and so Hillary Clinton – the Democrats’ Nikki Haley – lost to Donald Trump, as did the dozen or so heirs of Bush in the GOP primaries.
But Donald Trump, whose own view of world affairs is simply non-ideological–which is a blessing after the grand designs of the leaders who came right before him–is under siege from within and without his administration by officials and commentators who want him to continue the work that President Bush and Secretary Clinton began. Another Iraq, another Libya, another decade in Afghanistan—if Trump won’t bend and deliver this, then the party of democratic holy war is ready for its next campaign: Haley 2020.