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A New US National Security Council Pick May Mean More Trouble for the UN

Hugh Dugan, an ex-diplomat at the US mission to the UN, is a new Trump appointee in the National Security Council. 

Hugh Dugan, a retired United States Foreign Service officer and former US delegate to the United Nations, has been appointed to the US National Security Council as special assistant for international organization affairs, an integral post for government relations with the UN.

Dugan was a US delegate to the UN from 1989 to 2015. Most recently, he was the State Department’s principal deputy special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, since January 2019. One person familiar with Dugan’s career in government called him “conservative but not extremist.”

Dugan came out of retirement to take up the hostage-affairs post as a Trump appointee. In his new role, he will work for Robert O’Brien, who became the National Security Adviser in September, after John Bolton left the job. O’Brien was previously the hostage-affairs boss. The office focuses on the recovery of Americans held captive overseas.

It remains to be seen how Dugan’s new job in the National Security Council will play out, but it could be a strictly technical advisory role in furthering the Trump administration’s reform agenda of the UN, including budget cutting. If he is delegated to narrowly liaising with the State Department’s International Organizations (IO) bureau, which manages the security, personnel and logistical support of the US mission to the UN, Dugan could be the bureaucrat who knows the UN well enough to suggest ways the UN can do more with less. The US has just installed an acting head of International Organization Affairs to run the IO bureau, Jonathan Moore.

One person knowledgeable about Dugan’s time at the US mission to the UN, where he spent most of his career, said Dugan appreciated the value of the UN for finding common ground among countries with divergent interests.

Dugan was also a professor of diplomacy at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., from 2015-2018. His resume says that while he was at the US mission, he was an adviser to 11 US permanent representatives to the UN. He was a negotiator on many US delegations to the UN, such as the Peacebuilding Commission and the Economic and Social Council, according to his resume. He has been a contributor on Fox News and China’s CCTV, a state-media outlet.

Dugan is married to Ute Dugan, an executive at Bristol-Myers Squibb. They have two daughters and the family lives in Washington, D.C., Princeton, N.J., and Southampton, N.Y. Dugan is a graduate of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Dugan disparaged Rex Tillerson, the former secretary of state under Trump, in a 2018 essay. Noting Tillerson’s brief stint, after he was fired by a tweet from Trump, Dugan wrote, in part: ” . . . Mr. Tillerson was slow toward a career death that was self-inflicted. Like a smoker, he committed suicide on the installment plan.”

As for the first summit meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-Un, the chairman of North Korea, in 2018, Dugan referred to it as a “cold war turning into what I call a cold warmth.”

Dulcie Leimbach is the founder of PassBlue. For PassBlue and other publications, she has reported from New York and overseas from West Africa (Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal) as well as from Europe (Scotland, Sicily, Vienna, Budapest, Kyiv, Armenia and The Hague). She has provided commentary on the UN for BBC World Radio, NHK’s English channel and Background Briefing with Ian Masters/KPFK Radio in Los Angeles.

Previously, she was an editor for the Coalition for the UN Convention Against Corruption; from 2008 to 2011, she was the publications director of the United Nations Association of the USA. She has also worked as an editorial consultant to various UN agencies. Before UNA, Leimbach was an editor at The New York Times for more than 20 years, editing and writing for most sections of the paper, including the Magazine, Book Review and Op-Ed. She began her reporting career in small-town papers in San Diego, Calif., and Boulder, Colo., graduating to the Rocky Mountain News in Denver before she worked in New York at Esquire magazine and Adweek. In between, she was a Wall Street foreign-exchange dealer. Leimbach has been a fellow at Yaddo, the artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; taught news reporting at Hofstra University; and was a guest lecturer at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She graduated from the University of Colorado and has an M.F.A. in writing from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina.

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