By MR Josse
NEW YORK, NY: In a week very largely dominated by a splurge of big-time negative news for the Donald Trump presidency – and a revival of the use of the ‘I (impeachment) word’ in political discourse – this column focuses on the bizarre nomination of Heather Hauert, State Department spokeswoman, to replace Nikki Haley as America’s ambassador to the United Nations.
SNUB TO UN?
Ms Nauert, a co-anchor at “Fox & Friends” until she was brought into the State Department last year, was praised publicly by Trump as very bright and very talented, but has, more generally, been roundly disparaged for possessing a very thin diplomatic resume while having little or no political heft.
If confirmed by the Senate, she will stick out in stark contrast to the legion of luminaries – seasoned diplomats, renowned academics or prominent politicians – that have held that storied, high-profile position, including her immediate predecessor Haley, who had served as governor of South Carolina.
The U.S.’s UN ambassadors have included former Senators, House members and Supreme Court justices. Past envoys have been such heavyweights as Henry Cabot Lodge, Adlai Stevenson, George H.W. Bush, Madeline Albright, Thomas Pickering, Richard Holbright, Gen. Vernon Walters and Jeanne Kirkpatrick.
Susan E. Rice, a renowned academic and Obama administration-nominated ambassador to the UN, says: “The reality is that it is complex, important, substantive job…It is not a press job for a glorified spokesperson. The ambassador needs to be ‘toe to toe everyday with the Russians and the Chinese’…and it is not evident to be that she has the background that equips her to step into that job and hit the ground running.”
It is quite possible that the intention is to clip the UN ambassador’s feathers so that she will serve narrowly as a spokesperson at the United Nation – and nothing more.
Oftentimes, Haley hewed a line not totally congruent with that of her super boss, President Trump, who is not starry-eyed about the United Nations.
Whatever the rationale behind Hauert’s nomination, if she is confirmed, she will be leaving it to Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and the National Security Adviser, John Bolton, to influence foreign/security policy decision-making.
Off-kilter as the Hauert nomination appears to observers outside the United States, it pales in comparison with the puzzlement that the war of words of late between former United States Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, and President Trump has generated.
After Tillerson revealed to CBS’ Bob Schieffer that his former boss did not like to read briefing reports, or deal with details, even at the risk of taking illegal actions, Trump in a vicious tweet, pulled out his big guns denouncing him as ‘dumb as a rock’ and ‘lazy as hell.’
No matter that, not long ago, Trump had himself picked Tillerson to be his foreign policy vicar!
A weird way to conduct foreign/security policy, especially by the world’s only hyper-power, wouldn’t you agree?
ECHOES FROM PAST
Recently, I incorporated in this space scattered jottings from Victor Sebestyen’s ‘Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire’. Here are a fistful more, including those relating to Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev who succeeded Konstantin Chernenko and is famously associated with the ‘glasnost’ and ‘perestroika’ reforms that, arch critics charge, brought the Soviet Empire tumbling down.
As per Sebestyen’s exegesis, Gorbachev’s name as the new party General Secretary was formally proposed to the nomenklatura by former Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko, saying, among other things, “He has a nice smile, but Comrades, Mikhail Sergeyevich has iron teeth.”
“The Kremlin potentates had not chosen the new Soviet leader for his repartee. They believed that he was a Party man and thought that with his relative youth and energy he would defend with vigour the interests of the Soviet empire. That was what he promised to do in his brief acceptance speech after he was anointed…
“There is no need to change policy…The existing course is the true, the correct and genuinely Leninist one…and the most important thing is to keep our relations strong with the rest of the socialist camp…Mikhail Gorbachev was a Communist through and through. He did not seem like the man who would do more than anyone else to destroy communism…”
Gorbachev, the author asserts, did not come out smelling roses in the wake of the fateful Chernobyl nuclear disaster of April 1986. “This was the first major test of Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost – and he flunked it badly. Chernobyl had a profound effect on Gorbachev. It was a devastating blow to the public’s trust on him and his trust in those who worked for him. It was a tragic reminder of how badly the Soviet system functioned, and it spurred him on to try reforming it with renewed vigor. He handled the crisis poorly, but he was determined to learn from it. He has been lied to by the complacent officials who were protecting their own backs…
“Chernobyl turned Gorbachev into a far more passionate nuclear disarmer. From now on a constant refrain was how nuclear war would be infinitely worse than a thousand Chernobyls…Its effect was the single biggest event on the Soviet leadership since the Cuban Missile Crisis. For the first time, the most secret, the most sacrosanct, impenetrable part of the Soviet system – its nuclear programme – became the target of criticism.”
Here are two further thoughtful excerpts from the aforementioned volume.
“Gorbachev never thought through a coherent policy on the satellite states. He did not want the burden of empire but it was clear that he never calculated the consequences of retreating. He regarded Soviet relations with the bigger Western countries as much more important than the old fraternal ties with its socialist commonwealth….
“Gorbachev did not believe that the satellite states would rush to independence. It was his greatest miscalculation…He did not realize that he had been wrong until the Soviet Union ceased to exist.”