Stephen Walt, a celebrated American political scientist, once stated, ‘instead of realism, both Republicans and Democrats tend to view foreign policy through the lens of liberal idealism’. No political figure in the US wants to be labelled a realist: since, it is the only country where this term is used as a pejorative epithet, Henry Kissinger, the realist himself, affirms this. Why? Because the US champions the cause of democracy and all US leaders love to be known as the defender of American values at home and abroad. After 1945, liberals and realists alike, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama, all presidents categorised the world into good [democracies] and bad [dictatorships] and swayed the Americans that Stalin, Khamenei, Gorbachev, Qaddafi, Saddam Hussain, Vladimir Putin, XI Jinping, Kim Jong Un, and Erdogan like people were illiberal, irrational, and the source of all evil not only to the US but also to the rest of the ‘free’ world. One must concede, they all were consistent and rational in their foreign policy approach with the idea that states pursue national interests by opting varying ways. They established a US-led liberal world order that glued Europe with the US and made the world more inclusive and interdependent with democracy and free trade as the core values. However, Trump’s introverted worldview is based on exclusivism. This has not only decoupled interests from ideals but also caused the decline of democratic alliances. His approach towards the other nations is incoherent and clumsy. So far, he has demonstrated nothing but imprudence and a hollow self-importance. He seems to be a madman the world ought to fear. Unlike his predecessors, he is unorthodox to the extent that he claims his foreign policy is based on realism — that in its essence downplays individual leaders and underscores alliances for the balance of power in global and regional power structures but, he thinks of himself as indispensable. His administration’s national security and defence strategies are guided by the famous offshore balancing strategy, albeit in a mumbled and erratic way. This strategy, with the help of NATO and other allies was successfully employed by the US against Soviets from 1945 to 1989. But instead of sharing burdens with its allies, Trump’s America seems to be shedding burdens by pulling out of alliances. This undermines multilateralism in global affairs. His arrogance and erratic actions in the Middle East, Asia Pacific, Europe, and Afghanistan have rendered the UN Security Council helpless and American allies confused — looking for other options. His nativist ‘make America great again’, Twitter outbursts, reckless conduct towards international accords, his belittling of his own secretaries, strange choice of friends, and militarised foreign policy are leaving behind no space for dialogue and diplomacy at international stage. What Trump fails to understand is that he operates in a post-hegemonic, post-American world. To a great extent, the US has lost its global prestige, and with it, the US has also lost the right to tell the world ‘you are with us or against us’. He has collected a cabinet that is more inclined towards the Pentagon’s war bureaucracy than the state department’s diplomats. Therefore, his disposition and selection of words reflect more fight than dialogue. This military mood of the US administration is a response to the US retreat caused by the military misadventures in an era of unrivalled US supremacy. It started from the Iraq war, a conflict which was aimed at displaying American muscle. However, all it highlighted was US limitations, an exhaustive overstretch abroad and fatigue at domestic fronts where retrenchment happens to be the only option left. Therefore, his America first idea is reactionary and rejectionist in practice. Instead of multilateral arrangements with allies, he is isolating the US by walking away from alliances and partnerships like the Trans Pacific Partnership, Paris Agreement, Iranian nuclear deal (JCPOA) and the UN Human Rights Council. Now he is also thinking about pulling out of the World Trade Organization. Trump’s Afghanistan and South Asia policy does not promise nation building or the promotion of democracy For sure, he is not a nihilist. Instead, he seems like a person who is practical to a dangerous level. He saw a gap between perception and reality under Obama: on one hand, he found a Europe focused foreign policy elite who believed that US was still the preponderant global power; on the other, the impatient public who could see America’s faults but loved their country. He exploited the gap by investing in public issues as a populist leader and rose to the rank of the presidency. Donald Trump assumes Bush exhausted US militarily with his ill-conceived wars; whereas, Obama’s naïve optimism and pacifist restraint in the Middle East caused serious erosion of US prestige. Bush’s Afghan and Iraq wars sucked the US military machine dry and Obama’s staying with the winds of Arab spring expecting a smouldering democracy would emerge out of falling regimes proved delusional. Unlike George Bush’s liberal interventionism that promoted democracy on a rifle barrel in the guise of realism; Trump’s brand of realism is marked by the national interests in dollar and defence terms. His Afghanistan and South Asia policy does not promise nation building or the promotion of democracy. Instead it promises death and destruction for the Taliban as well as serious consequences for Pakistan. Dropping the Mother Of All Bombs (MOAB) in Afghanistan, missile strikes in Syria, threatening Kim Jong-Un via Twitter, arms sales to Eastern European nations against Russia, and granting India a crucial role in Indo-Pacific region against China are the signs of a relentless unilateralism and exercise of hegemony where anyone who dares cross the US red lines will not go unpunished, because Trump simply doesn’t care about the consequences. Trump treats US allies with contempt, those who had outsourced their security to US are now being asked to invest more in US wars; otherwise, they will lose the US security umbrella. Trump’s unpredictability has rung alarm bells in European capitals. Trump believes Russia and China — two revisionist states — are a threat to America’s super power status in global structure. Therefore, as part of his offshore balancing strategy, he is not afraid of keeping the balance of power in the Chinese backyard by having strategic partnerships with countries who have territorial disputes with China in South and East China Seas, co-opting a repressive regime of Kim irrespective of its defiant behaviour and human right abuses. Trump’s trade war with friends and foes alike has created doubts among Indians who were very enthusiastic when US administration announced to revive the quadrilateral mechanism with India, Japan, and Australian aboard against the Chinese Belt road Initiative. This ill-conceived tariff war is pushing US allies to China — the mainstay of the free market in today’s globalised world. US weapons sale to Poland and Ukraine and the bellicose attitude towards Russia will further debilitate the UNSC, leaving behind fertile grounds for potential Sino-Russian partnership in the Pacific and Eurasian region. A similar confrontational and incoherent approach is in practice in the Middle East, where Iran, Russia, and Bashar al Assad are holding ground against the balancing coalition of US, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Egypt at the expense of US prestige and its commitments to allies. After taking office, Trump authorised missile strikes against Syria to herald, “I am no Obama who allowed you to cross the Rubicon”. Containment of Iran and access to Middle Eastern oil are the immediate US goals in the region, and they necessitate US presence. But President Trump wants to retrench by handing over the charge to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt with a regional defence coalition. In return, Washington will turn a deaf ear and blind eye to the cruelties perpetrated by Saudi Arabia in Yemen and Israel in Palestine and forget about human rights and democracy. Today’s America is not ruled by a realist nor by a pragmatist because in both cases a varying degree of rationality prevails.US-led Liberal order is under threat not because of competitors but, because of the Trump’s reckless foreign policy priorities. He is bound to bring chaos, and Americans must not expect order when the dust settles. The writer is a PhD candidate at NDU Islamabad Published in Daily Times, July 4th 2018.