With populism running wild in Europe and in the United States — the Brexit and American presidential candidate Donald Trump questioning U.S. alliances being just two obvious examples — suddenly people are asking the big questions about the future of Western institutions that should have been asked after the Cold War ended.
Both the Brexit and Donald Trump seem to be driven by a nativist element, but that doesn’t diminish the value of the implicit questions that they are posing. Americans should listen to Donald Trump, while examining the Brexit, and ask themselves if the United States shouldn’t withdraw from NATO and other military alliances.
Of course, such a U.S. withdrawal would be much more consequential for NATO and other U.S. alliances than is the Brexit for the European Union. Britain is not even the largest economy in the E.U. The United States accounts for three-quarters of the defense spending of NATO countries, and it is very unlikely that those allies — all much closer to zones of conflict than is the United States — will be defending the superpower rather than vice versa.