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The Daily Devil’s Dictionary: Nikki Haley and the “Simple” Act

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Nikki Haley © A. Katz

December 20, 2017 12:10 EDT

The world has been warned. Nikki Haley is taking names.

In a 14 to 1 vote at the United Nations Security Council on the long-standing matter of the status of Jerusalem — in response to Donald Trump’s decision to establish the US embassy in that disputed city — the one nation to vote against the motion was the US. In doing so, it used its power of veto.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, explained with a decided tone of aggression the reasons for the veto. Summoning a style more appropriate to that of a 19th century European duelist, she characterized the nearly unanimous vote as an “insult” and added the threat that “it won’t be forgotten.”

“Today, for the simple act of deciding where to put our embassy, the United States was forced to defend its sovereignty,” said Haley.

Here is today’s 3D definition:


Designates one aspect of a problem that all parties agree isn’t a problem in order to distract attention from the elephant in the room

This enables us to offer a second definition:


An adjective to describe the kind of person who resorts to using the rhetorical ploy of calling something obviously complex “simple” to hide their wildly inappropriateness response to the complexity of the reality in question

Contextual note

Ambassador Haley’s indignant defiance reads like a duelist’s challenge to what she called “the remainder of the Security Council.” For Haley, the nearly unanimous 14 votes of all other members constitute the remainder, i.e. what was left over after the expression of her majority of one.

This sally against all the other nations of the world (except perhaps Israel) sums up US diplomacy of the Trump era. Some call it thin-skinned and it is obviously aggressive in its posturing and rhetoric. Instead of the traditional duelist’s sense of “honor,” Haley insists on the notion of “embarrassment,” which she promised would not “be forgotten.” And indeed we now know it wasn’t, since one day later, she tweeted this: “At the UN we’re always asked to do more & give more. So, when we make a decision, at the will of the American ppl, abt where to locate OUR embassy, we don’t expect those we’ve helped to target us. On Thurs there’ll be a vote criticizing our choice. The US will be taking names.”

Some form of retaliation is clearly in preparation. Most people consider the use of the archaic postures and bravado of old-fashioned dueling as a prelude to war to be a thing of the past, at least ever since the Marx Brothers parodied it in Duck Soup in 1933. But when it comes to reestablishing order in the Middle East, the Trump administration will spare no expense and neglect no tradition. The world has been warned. Haley is already taking names!

As we learned elsewhere in an unrelated story, if things do lead to a duel, Trump will be the one who insists on the choice of arms. He made it clear — in announcing his new policy based on the idea that “weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unrivaled power is the most certain means of defense” — that he was ready literally to go nuclear.

As The Guardian describes the policy, “‘non-nuclear strategic attacks’ represents a new category of threat that US nuclear weapons could be used to counter.” According to one expert, “It’s a taste of what will come in the Nuclear Posture Review. What is interesting is the broadening of the nuclear weapons mission against non-nuclear attacks.” “Interesting” is indeed one way of describing it.

Historical note

We learn from Al Jazeera that “a bloc of Arab nations, Turkey and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation” have requested a vote in the UN General Assembly to block Trump’s move.

Predictably, Israel’s UN representative, Danny Danon, has expressed the now traditional refusal by Israel of any UN resolution calling into question its policies and privileges: “No vote or debate will change the clear reality that Jerusalem always has been and always will be the capital of Israel. Together with our allies, we will continue to fight, once again, for historical truth.”

But who decides what historical truth is? One occupying power of what is now Israel famously asked two millennia ago, “What is truth?” when arraigning a man accused of seditious acts.

Which only goes to show that one people’s idea of “historical truth” can be another’s idea of fake news.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: A. Katz /

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