While I would never endorse Donald Trump's call to end NATO, it would provide a very interesting case study into how long the social democracies of Western Europe could continue to maintain their vast nanny states if they had to pay for their own defense. During the Brexit debate, European Union bureaucrats argued that it was they who had established the peace and prosperity seen in most of the Continent for decades. Actually, it was the broad wings of the US Military that has maintained the peace after World War II.
Who funded the Marshall Plan--allowing war-torn Europe to rebuild? Who stood up to the Soviet aggression of the Cold War? Who quelled ethnic cleansing in the Balkans? It certainly wasn't Greece, Spain or Belgium.
Donald Trump is correct in saying that many NATO members aren't pulling their own weight. When it was formed, the alliance required its European members to commit just two percent of their annual budgets to defense efforts. Today, just five countries are meeting that requirement. The US covers between 70 and 75% of the annual expenses of NATO--to the tune of $650-BILLION out of the $900-BILLION total.
So let's say the US really did take its ball (and missles and warships and soldiers) and went home--how would our allies make up for that? And remember, our European friends also enjoy the quick deployment capabilities of the ENTIRE US Military in the event of a major threat of action. How would the Scandanavian countries--who are already taxed to the max--fund their cradle-to-the-grave entitlement programs when they would have to field much larger armies, develop their own defense technologies, build (or buy) all of those tanks, planes and weapons systems? Would the French, the Spanish and the Italians be able to take entire months off of work if they had to pay for their own systems of spy satellites, surveillance drones, anti-submarine technology and missle defense systems? And imagine if every European country had to establish its own intelligence system to infiltrate not just the threats from Russia and China--but the infiltration of their own societies by Islamic terror groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda.
This may lead you to wonder why the US spends all of this money to protect countries that then enjoy the "peace dividend" we fund? Well it comes from lessons learned in the early 20th Century: we can either pay to maintain the peace in Europe now--or we can pay a lot more--with our lives--to re-establish it later. And the next time you hear a Liberal say we need to be "more like Europe" in pushing for some entitlement program, ask them which superpower is going to protect us--so we can pay for it.