On June 23, a referendum arranged by Parliament was held in the United Kingdom. By a vote of 52 percent to 48 percent, British voters expressed their opinion that Great Britain should end its membership in the European Union. “Brexit” is a blend of “British exit” from the European Union (EU).
This was not the first time British voters were given a chance to decide their country’s membership status.
The Treaty of Rome created the European Economics Community (EEC) in 1957. The original six countries in what began as an economic union were France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The United Kingdom applied for membership in 1963 and 1967, but both applications were rejected by Charles de Gaulle, the president of France. The United Kingdom did not join the EEC until 1973, along with Denmark and Ireland.
In 1975, a referendum was held in the United Kingdom on whether the country should stay in the EEC. But unlike last month, voters back then approved of staying in the “common market” by a margin of 67 percent to 33 percent.
In 1993, by the Maastricht Treaty, the EEC became a component of the EU as the European Community (EC). In 2009, by the Lisbon Treaty, the EC was fully incorporated into the European Union. The EU now comprises twenty-eight member states. No country has ever exited, although the right of withdrawal from the EU has been in force since 2007.
Whether the United Kingdom actually leaves the EU remains to be seen. The timing for leaving is two years from the date that official notice is given, which Great Britain has not yet done. And neither has the British government initiated any formal process for leaving. From a legal standpoint, the referendum was advisory, not binding. The referendum contains no language requiring the British government to do anything.
There were probably some expected benefits to the United Kingdom when it initially joined the EEC in 1973 or the country would not have done it. Whether it is actually beneficial to be part of the European Union is for the British to decide.
But what about Americans? Why don’t American voters get to decide on the membership of the United States in European organizations? The United States is not a member of the EU, but it is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
So what is NATO and why should American voters want the United States to leave the organization? Why should they, if given the opportunity, vote for a NATO exit, a Nexit if you will?
NATO was established in 1949 by the North Atlantic Treaty between twelve countries: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. Since that time NATO has been enlarged six times, most recently when Albania and Croatia became the 27th and 28th members in 2009.
According to NATO, its essential purpose is “to safeguard the freedom and security of its members through political and military means.” The organization is committed “to the principle that an attack against one or several members is considered as an attack against all.” And according to NATO’s official history, “The Alliance’s creation was part of a broader effort to serve three purposes: deterring Soviet expansionism, forbidding the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe through a strong North American presence on the continent, and encouraging European political integration.”
There are a number of reasons why Americans should want a Nexit.
NATO is obsolete. The collapse of the Soviet Union, the deposing of the communist governments of Eastern Europe, the destruction of the Berlin Wall, and the disbanding of the Warsaw Pact have rendered NATO obsolete.
NATO is an unnecessary expense. The United States pays nearly three-fourths of NATO’s budget. The countries of Europe are quite capable of paying for their own security, and should be doing so.
NATO is an entangling alliance. It is, in fact, the quintessential entangling alliance warned against by the Founding Fathers. George Washington famously wrote in his Farewell Address, “It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.” And in his First Inaugural Address, Thomas Jefferson, in describing “the essential principles of our government,” made this notable foreign-policy statement, “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”
NATO unadvisedly links the United States with Europe. None other than Jefferson advised against this:
I am decidedly of opinion we should take no part in European quarrels, but cultivate peace and commerce with all….
I am not for linking ourselves by new treaties with the quarrels of Europe, entering that field of slaughter to preserve their balance, or joining in the confederacy of kings to war against the principles of liberty.
NATO does not exist for the defense of the United States. It is not like America’s having a treaty with Canada and Mexico to unite in the defense of North America in the event of an attack. The purpose of NATO has always been for the United States to come to the aid of Europe, again. One NATO member country, Iceland, doesn’t even have an army.
NATO is not the best way to defend the United States. The United States has been gifted with a natural national defense of two great oceans. No great power in history has had such favorable geography. Jefferson recognized this: “The insulated state in which nature has placed the American continent, should so far avail it that no spark of war kindled in the other quarters of the globe should be wafted across the wide oceans which separate us from them.” Favorable geography and a Jeffersonian foreign policy of peace, commerce, and neutrality are the best means to defense.
NATO could needlessly cost Americans the lives of their sons and daughters. As a member of NATO, the United States could be drawn into a bloody war over an incident between Russia and Estonia. Many Americans probably don’t know where Estonia is or even that it is a country.
Americans should not be demanding that NATO member countries pay their “fair share” to operate NATO. Americans should not be demanding that NATO member countries increase their defense budgets. The countries of Europe can fund, expand, contract, or reorganize NATO any way they choose. From the American standpoint, it really doesn’t matter what the Europeans do as long as the United States makes a Nexit from NATO.