Administration of United States of America: Is It Moving Forward To Realism or Liberalism Based on the Security, Trade and Immigration policy of Donald Trump

Introduction: In the late 20th and early 21st century no other country, but the United States of America has had the tendency and capacity to influence in the course of international relations. U.S.A has been acting as a dominant paradigm especially in the post world war era. Whereas different countries are emerging as an independent and influential with their own capabilities, the consistent world order has been disrupted by the new president of U.S.A, Donald John Trump. Within the moments of taking the oath as a 45th President of the United States, Trump Declared “From this day forward,  it’s going to be America first.” (CNBC, 2018). True to the fact, from that day it has never been uneventful when it concerns with his policies.

In this paper, we will try to outline the development of Trumps’ (America- First) worldview following the trade, Security and most controversial immigration policy and will try to view these policies through the two major theoretical approaches named Realism and Liberalism of International Relations (IR).


World Affairs and the Status of United States of America:

In world history “There have been two great shifts of power on the world stage during the past five centuries: the rise of Europe following the Industrial Revolution and the rise of United States after its Civil War. (Zhou, 2008, P. 171). True to the word, the United States of America has been the Dominant actor in Global affairs and international system following the creation of leading organizations like the United Nations and NATO.

January 2018 marks the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration, whereas it was an almost faith of many Democrats that it would only be a matter of time that trump presidency faced impeachment. Despite controversy never being far away from Trump’s presidency, a number of initiatives have installed following the promises that he made to his base during the election campaign. On the other hand, from pulling out of treaties to denigrating allies from starting Trade wars, the impulsive actions of President Donald Trump are inverting the international order that has been sustaining since World War II. In addition to the belligerent foreign policy of Trump, the rise of China as a central player in global affairs and its Belt and Road initiative, the prospect of unified Korea, Russia’s influential role indicates the inception of power shifting and gradually losing the dominant role of USA in world affairs.


Structure of United States of America Government:

When the new constitution is adopted in 1787, the structure of the govt. called for three branches, each with their own powers so that no branches would ever too powerful. The founding fathers of USA constitution knew that they did not want to establish a country that was ruled by a king and so the structure of United States is constructed in a way that other branches would always be able to check the other two branches. To have a strong and fair national government a system of checks and balances is introduced through the three branches; the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judicial branch.


Legislative Branch:

The legislative branch is described in Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution. The formation of this branch is bicameral; the Senate and the House of Representatives which is also known as U.S. Congress. There are a total number of 100 senators where each state gets 2 senators. ON the other hand, there are a total number of 435 representatives where representatives are based on the number of people living in each state. Each senator and Representative serve 6 years and 2 years respectively.

Making or Formulation policy is the primary function of the legislative branch. It is also responsible for approving federal judges and justices, passing the national budget, declaring war, making rules for government and regulation of the land and naval forces etc.


Executive Branch:

The Executive branch is described in Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution. The President and Vice President of United States are the leader of the Executive branch and responsible for enforcing the policy that Congress sets forth. A group of advisors works closely with the President by helping to make important decisions within their area of expertise such as treasury, defense, homeland security who are known as the cabinet.


Judicial Branch:

The third branch, the judicial branch is detailed in Article in the U.S. Constitution. This branch is comprised of all the courts including the Supreme Court. This branch interprets policy and determines if the policy is based on the Constitution or not.


The Presidential power of United States of America:

The second article of the U.S. Constitution gave numerous powers to the President of the United States of America. This article gives the power to execute law and policy (Article 2) and according to Article 1, section 7, each bill or policy which will pass by the House of Representative and the Senate, has to be presented to the President before implementation. Others are –

  • To serve as a commander in chief of the Army and Navy of United States. (Article 2, Section 2)
  • To grant Reprieves and Pardons for offenses against the U.S (Article 2, Section 2)
  • To make treaties with the advice and consent of Senate (Article 2, Section 2)
  • To appoint ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls (Article 2, Section 2)
  • To refuse to approve a policy or joint resolution (veto power) (Article 1, Section 7)


Though the President of U.S has the veto power, this veto power can be overridden only by a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. If this happens, the bills or policy become law without Presidents approval.


Theoretical Perspectives of International Relations:

The theories of International Relations provide a framework for analyzing the international system and public policy analyze how national, regional and local institutions of the state initiate develop and implement policies. Before security policy, trade policy and immigration policy are analyzed through the theoretical framework of International Relations, the two major theories of is mentioned below:


Realism is an approach that emphasizes the role of the nation-state and broad assumptions that all nation-state are motivated by national interests. Realists believe that the goal of power, the means of power and the uses of power are a central preoccupation of political activity. In the preservation and safeguarding of the respective states’ sovereignty, the ground is set for international leaders and other influential bodies to rule their nations in a manner that is regulated to satisfy selfish interests and disregard principles and moral values, thus serving to gratify the notion that international community is characterized by anarchy. Realism also places a great deal of importance on the balance of power.



Liberalism is an approach that emphasizes a more cooperative, globalist approach and the important role of nonstate actors and institutions representing individuals or groups interests on the world stage. In the Contemporary world, a number of liberal policies have been introduced including individuals rights over corporate interests, minority group’s rights. The liberalism is based on On cooperative and ethical standards and willing to surrender some sovereignty to international structures promoting cooperation.


read more The root cause of Israel and Palestine Conflict and Recent US President Donald Trumps Decision on Shifting US Embassy to Jerusalem


The security issue in Trump Administration:

on the analysis of International Relations, the concept of ‘security’ is the central policy in over the decade. Now if we see the main themes of US strategy that

  • We live in a competitive environment, internationally.
  • The United States has the right to pursue its own interests within this environment.
  • Border control and homeland security.
  • American energy dominance

Now the view of security campaign by Trump administration ‘America First’ which is formed the foundation of his remarks. He said a nation that is not prepared to win a war is a nation not capable for preventing war. A nation that is not proud of its history cannot be confident in its future. And a nation that is not certain of its values cannot summer the will to defend them.

Trump declared the United States must push for the better trade. His overviewed that economic security is national security that is absolutely necessary for American power and influence abroad. His version has four main organizing principles:  Protecting the American homeland, Protecting American prosperity, preserving peace through strength, Advancing U.S influence. This strategy asserts that ‘contrary to our hopes, China expanded its power at the expense of the sovereignty others’.

Trump administration took a clear look at world politics. In 1992, we saw a unipolar moment at the end of the cold war. The United States was preeminent and prevent the rise of a global rival and domination of critical regions by hostile powers.N ow we can say that the unipolar era is over.

Trump’s ’National Security Strategy’ acknowledges the central role of power in international politics. Where sovereign states are the best hope for a peaceful world and clearly define national interest. Russia and China are the most concerned for their national security.

Trump administration plans to deploy new lower-yield warheads, for that they use on Trident II D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles. A new nuclear-capable sea-launched cruise missile would be developed (SLCM). The deployment of nuclear SLCM could be used as against Russian departure from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.

Realism and Security: Realism sees that the insecurity is one of the important terms in International Relations. There have various strategies that state can pursue in order to make themselves more secure, such as maximizing power, international alliances, arms racing, socialization, and diplomacy. Realism depicts the international system as a realm where ‘self-help’ is the primary motivation.

Following the best tradition of America’s Cold War strategy, Trump’s strategy matches a realist conception of the threat to the long-term pursuit of peace.


The resulting tragedy in the Middle East to the United States mainly in Syria has become a symbol of indecisiveness and retreat. A ‘realist’ approach to U.S. strategy in Syria should now consist of minimizing the US role in trying to resolve Syria’s internal problems and countering the combined effects of Russian, Iranian, Hezbollah and Turkish intervention.

Trump explains NATO as ‘obsolete’ and full of free-riders ‘ripping off the United State’. And his view, the military will be so big, so powerful, so strong that no one will dare mess with it. Trump will be withdrawing US troops from their overseas bases. He says, his administration would be willing to stop buying oil from the Saudis if they don’t get serious about fighting the Islamic State; preventing China access to US market and limiting expansion in the South China Sea. He also desires to discard America’s traditional alliance from NATO to the Pacific partners if they won’t pull their own weight.

Now we can say that Trump Administration represents the political Realism.



Trade and economy in Trump Administration:

Trade and economy is the core content of international relations. There is a debate over the importance of trade and economy than politics in international relations. The theorist of realism argues that politics is the most important in international relations where trade and economy is the tool to achieve a political agenda. The liberalist view says that the economy should be free from state control and it should be regulated by the competency of goods. States have less control over trade and it will be controlled by the “invisible hand” (Adam Smith).


In the electoral campaign, Donald Trump argued that the US is being underrated in international trade and China is embarrassing the US in trade. He pledged that economic nationalism would be the hallmark of his trade policy and said: “we must protect our borders from the revenge of other countries making our products, stealing our countries, and destroying our jobs” (Foreign Affairs 2017).  And Today’s new is that Trump recriminates WTO dispute resolution process and claims to withdraw from it.  Before going to the conclusion that whether realism or liberalism drives Trump administration’s trade and economic policy, we should observe some incidents:


The trade deal complexity: Shortly after the inauguration Donald Trump has withdrawn from TPP (Transpacific Partnership) and rejoined again recently. Trump claimed that free trade negotiations harm the domestic market, destroy industries, and undermine the secrecy of the national economy. According to skeptics of Trump Administration, TPP degrades intellectual property, labor, and the environment. Many of them opposed dispute settlement provisions.

The China Game: China is a growing power in the global trade regime. Trump argued that Chinese business harming US trade seriously. Over the last quarter-century, China saved 44% of its national income, while the US saved 18% ( China extends its market rapidly especially its steel and iron industry made Trump administration displeased. As a result, Trump imposed a remarkable tariff on it. And it has surrounded some European countries as well as Iran.

The WTO regime: Trump has been continuously opposing WTO’s role in international business. WTO is the body of international trade regulation which aimed for open trade and resolving trade disputes. Trump claims that its dispute resolution is improper.


Concluding debate on realism or liberalism:

If we look back to realist and liberalist view on trade, we can say that Trump Administration’s policy more adheres to realism than liberalism. To realist and neo-realist or mercantilist view, the state is the most important in an economic regime, increase in export, creating the surplus, establishing monopolies etc. All the acts since Trump have taken the presidency closely adhere to those ideologies.


 Trump Administration on immigration policy

We are marking of Donald Trump as a realist leader considering all of his decisions and policies are taken for the Immigrants of the United States of America. Here we would elaborately discuss all issues with the help of theories and his actions.

At first, it is important to be clear the word because we feel contradictory among the words emigration/immigration/migration. Let’s do it first,

Emigration means leaving one’s country to live in another. Immigration is coming into another country to live permanently. Migration refers to moving somewhere. We would mean immigration policy of Donald Trump which pushes him to be a realist leader more than a liberal one.


Theories of realism 

Realism is one of the oldest paradigms in International Relation (IR). It is “a spectrum of ideas” based on shared principles about what determines states behaviors towards one another. Among its ideas is anarchy Realists believe that there is no centralized global authority that limits sovereign states and determines their actions. For this reason, nation-states are the only legitimate actors in international affairs and neither supranational nor domestic actors can restrict them. Under conditions of anarchy and an unpredictable future, nations rely only on themselves. That is why the main driving force in the self-help world is the national interest. The central concern of foreign policy for realists is survival because of the uncertain future of the international system. Survival, in turn, depends on power. However, practitioners of realism see it not as a foundation on which to build the world order but as an epistemological tool of analyzing history and making forecasts for the future. Besides, economic nationalism is the most important determinant of realism.

As immigrants are directly related to the economic upheaval of a country, the situation needs to be discussed with the standpoint of economy.


Donald Trump on Immigration:

The U.S. President Donald Trump’s immigration policies follow a realist theory which is economic nationalism. Trump’s “Put America First” program attempts to protect American workers and industries. It also reverses decades of U.S. immigration policy that called for countries to “Send me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.”

On January 26, 2018, Trump released an immigration plan. It would offer a 12-year path to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants who arrived in the United States illegally as children. It would replace President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The plan budgets $25 billion for a wall along the border with Mexico. It ends the practice of “catch and release.” It prohibits green cards for distant relatives of immigrants. Cards would only be available to spouses and children. The plan ends the diversity visa lottery.


Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA)

What is DACA?

DACA is an important immigration policy of the United States came into existence during the Obama administration. On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that the people who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines may appeal for consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal. They are also eligible for work authorization. Deferred action is a use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time. Deferred action does not provide lawful status.

President Donald trump took several steps to reform DACA:

On January 9, 2018, the U.S. District Court in San Francisco ruled that “Dreamers” are protected from deportation. Those eligible for DACA cannot be deported until the matter is resolved in court. The judgment overrides Trump’s announcement that he would end DACA on March 5, 2018. Trump wants Congress to create a replacement.

On April 24, 2018, the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Department of Homeland Security must better explain its reasons for canceling DACA. If it doesn’t do so in 90 days, the department must resume processing DACA applications.

DACA offers a two-year deferral of deportation for eligible immigrants. Eligible people are those under 31 who were illegally brought to the United States as children. President Obama launched the program with an executive order in 2012. Since then, it has given 787,580 “Dreamers” a work permit.

The Cato Institute, a public policy research organization, estimated that elimination of DACA could cost the economy $215 billion over 10 years. That’s the amount of lost spending power from these employed young people.

On August 4, 2018, a federal judge ruled the Trump administration must fully restore DACA. He stayed the order until August 23 to give the administration time to decide whether to appeal.

Travel Ban

The ‘Travel Ban’ is a newborn immigration policy taken by Donald Trump which was a part of his election campaign.

On September 24, 2017, Trump restricted travel from eight countries. On December 4, 2017, the Supreme Court gave allowance the Trump administration to implement its travel ban.

The countries Perimeter of banning
Chad Bans immigrant, business and tourist visas.
Iran Bans immigrant, business and tourist visas. Allows student and exchange visitor visas.
Libya                             Bans immigrant, business and tourist visas.
North Korea Bans immigrant and tourist visas.
Somalia Bans immigrant visas except for those with family or an infant needing medical care.
Syria Bans immigrant, business and tourist visas.
Venezuela Bans business and tourist visas to government employees and their families.
Yemen Bans immigrant, business and tourist visas.


The variations depended on well the countries adhered to the recommended security measures.

On October 17 and 18, 2017, federal courts halted portions of President Trump’s travel bans. The judges said that the bans on predominantly-Muslim countries are unconstitutional. They interpreted Trump’s own words to infer that his bans on Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen were based on religion.

Trump’s latest order replaces the one he signed on March 6, 2017. It prohibited visas for citizens from six countries. They were Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. They are “countries of concern” according to a 2016 law concerning immigration visas.

The ban did not include 500,000 legal green card holders (permanent resident aliens) and existing visa holders. It also exempted diplomats and members of international organizations. It was supposed to go into effect at 12:01 am on March 16 and remain for 90 days. The ban was stopped by a lower court order. The order replaced one Trump signed January 27, 2017.


H-1B Visa Program

The H-1B is a visa in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act, section 101(a)(15)(H) which gives allowance U.S. employers to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. If a foreign worker in H-1B status quits or is dismissed from the sponsoring employer, the worker must either apply for and be granted a change of status, find another employer, or leave the United States.

On April 19, 2017, Trump signed an executive order asking the Department of Homeland Security to review the H-1B visa program. He wants to make sure that only highly-paid skilled immigrants receive the visas. He doesn’t want any to go to foreign workers that are paid less than their U.S. counterparts. It could take years for the review to be carried out.

The order is directed at Indian firms like Tata Consultancy, Infosys and Wipro. They are located in the United States but hire many immigrants from India. Facebook and Qualcomm are also big users of the H-1B visa. Fifteen percent of their workers are immigrants under the program.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service is sending many H-1B visa applications back for “further evidence.” At least 25 percent of such applications are being rejected compared to 20 percent a year ago.

Silicon Valley CEOs worry that Trump might restrict this program. The Immigration Act of 1990 provides temporary visas to 315,000 foreign skilled workers. Two-thirds were for computer-related jobs. These companies would lose valuable employees without the H-1B visa program. That would hurt the success of some of Americas most profitable companies.

Wall on the Border with Mexico

President Trump promised to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. But a wall alone won’t stop illegal crossing from Mexico which is statistically shown. Even if it were successful, it would only stop half of illegal immigration.

Trump promised to force Mexico to pay for it. If it refused, he threatened to change a rule under the USA Patriot Act anti-terrorism law. That would confiscate Western Union money transfers sent to Mexico from immigrants in the United States illegally. The Mexican central bank reported that it received $25 billion from abroad. There are no exact figures on how much of that is from U.S. immigrants.

Since Mexico refused to pay for the wall, President Trump asked Congress to appropriate the money. He would ask Mexico to pay for it later.

Many Republicans oppose the border wall. Those from California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas face the most consequences. They say the wall won’t work, especially without added security forces. Others worry about the impact on the environment in their states. Democrats are also opposed to the wall.



On March 6, 2017, a Trump executive order banned refugees for 120 days unless they were already scheduled for travel. Homeland Security has reviewed the application process to prevent any exploitation by terrorists. Trump planned to halve the total number of refugees accepted to 50,000 per year. Federal judges stayed those orders. That gave the State Department the ability to increase the number of refugees to 70,000 in 2017.

On October 24, 2017, the Trump administration allowed refugees from all but 11 countries. For the next 90 days, refugees from those countries had to show their arrival would be in the U.S. “national interest.” The 11 countries included Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Syria, and Sudan. One official said they account for 63 percent of refugees.

In 2018, the Trump administration cut the staff that conducts clearance interviews overseas and intensified the screening process for refugees. It also doubled the number of people it characterizes as high-risk, increasing their screening process. As a result, it’s estimated that only 20,000 refugees will enter America by the end of the year. That’s the lowest figure since the resettlement program was created with the passage of the Refugee Act in 1980.

The steepest decline is with Muslims. In fiscal 2016, 38,900 Muslim refugees came to the United States, according to the State Department. In 2017, that number fell to 22,861. Only 2,107 entered in the first six months of 2018.


read more Donald Trump’s Foreign Policy: America First or America Alone?


Conclusion: If we try to look at the common features of trade, security and immigration policy of Trump Administration we can see the visibility of Three ‘S’ (Statism, Self-help, Survival) of Realism. Most of the economic policy of the Trump centered on the development of his own countries workers. Moreover, from the time he had the power of the executive body, his policies are commonly based on Statism where State of the center of global affairs.



Arman Hossain
Safqat Jahan
Sharif Mustajib
Dipta Sharma

students, International Relations, University of Chittagong.




Zhou, J. (2008). DOES CHINA’S RISE THREATEN THE UNITED STATES? Asian Perspective, 32(3), 171-182. Retrieved from

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