The United States with eleven other nations formed NATO in 1949. There were three primary reasons for U.S. participation in this effort at collective defense. First, much of Europe had not yet recovered from World War II; much of Europe was unable to defend itself. The United States, whose territory had been relatively untouched by the war, was willing to step into the role of dominant partner in what was intended to be a shared effort at collective defense.
Second, NATO was intended to function as a collective defense system against the Soviet Union--the standard bearer for world communism. America was willing to participate in part because international communism, rightly or wrongly, was seen as a threat to all, if not today, then later. Better that containment should be enforced far from America’s shores.
Third, the presence of the United States—particularly in a leadership role—would make it possible for NATO members to participate without fear of one another, having in mind conflicts between member countries, some of which during World War II were among the Allies, the Axis, or neutral.
These reasons all once made sense; they justified American participation in NATO, at least until 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, or, perhaps, as late as 1991, when the Soviet Union dissolved. Post-1991, it is difficult to see what rationale supports continued United States participation in NATO.
First, Europe has recovered from World War II. People immigrate to Europe: they do so because, although it is not an engine of rapid economic growth, it is relatively affluent, prosperous, and safe. Second, the Soviet Union has long ceased to exist, as has the threat of aggressive world communism as an ideological or military opponent to Western liberal democracy. It is true Russia is a threat to Eastern Europe, but it is not a military threat to Western Europe, much less the United States. Third, post-Brexit, the nations of the EU are planning their own cooperative defense pact. Let them have it. The French are no longer afraid of German military power, and the Germans have no fear of the European periphery. The United States is not needed to keep the peace between France and Germany. And the Germans have the people to do it—they just imported a million new future (German and European) citizens.
Let’s not kid ourselves, NATO, in its current structure, destabilizes the peace of Europe vis-a-vis Russia. Europe’s states will not pay for their own defense as long as those states can enjoy a free ride courtesy of the American tax payer and the American elite’s visions of Pax Americana. Those visions are long past their sell-by-date. If American participation in NATO ends, there is a good chance (albeit, not a sure thing) that the Europeans will cooperate and defend themselves. That’s a win-win. Good for America, and good for Europe.
I propose a national referendum—an American Brexit—to settle the question. Let’s put the question to all of our people. Should the United States continue to participate in NATO?
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SethBTillman ( @SethBTillman )
 It is true that Russian nuclear weapons do threaten the United States. But America’s defense against that very real threat is based on our retaliatory capability and on our ABM capability. It is not NATO which secures the United States against this particular Russian threat; it is our submarines.