LONDON, June 27 (UPI) -- When government becomes destructive, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and establish a new one.
Britons decided Thursday by a majority that government was destructive and voted accordingly to leave the European Union. Make no mistake. This was a geostrategic earthquake approaching 20 on the political version of the Richter scale. The fallout will be felt in virtually every corner of the globe beginning in Westminster and Prime Minister David Cameron's resignation.
Stock markets and bourses tumbled and it may take weeks for the aftershocks to subside. Perhaps one of the biggest beneficiaries will be Donald Trump, who had planned to visit two of his golf courses in Scotland on a "business" trip. This cover and deception plan could reinvigorate Trump's failing campaign. Doubtless, he will have a lot to say having vigorously supported "leave." And had the vote gone the other way, Trump could have maintained that his visit was indeed business oriented. Hillary Clinton, take warning.
Of course, the extrication process can take at least two years. Rear guard actions will be fought to minimize the decision to leave. It was, after all, only a referendum. However, there is no support for that. And the British move toward independence will be contagious. How other members of the EU react is far from clear.
With the upcoming NATO heads of government summit in Warsaw, Poland in two weeks, the alliance will try to ignore the British vote. Possibly another British prime minister will be in attendance, which is what happened 71 years ago at the Potsdam conference among the major allied powers when Winston Churchill was defeated by Labor's Clement Atlee in the elections following the end of the war in Europe.
No doubt Cameron's campaign to stay was error-ridden. Instead of arguing to remain based on a cost-benefit analysis comparing the advantages and disadvantages of staying or leaving, No. 10 sought to run on fear mongering over possible economic consequences that would cast Britain into a recession or worse. That failed. Now the world must live with Cameron's miscalculation.
The irony is that Cameron may be the 21st century version of Mikhail Gorbachev, who ultimately presided over the implosion of the Soviet Union. Perhaps the Soviet Union could have hung together longer. But the succession of geriatrics to leadership from Leonid Brezhnev, who died in 1982 following five years of ill health, generated turmoil in the ruling Politburo.
Gorbachev went to a succession of posts advancing up the ladder. In each position, he saw how badly the system was failing. When Konstantin Chernenko died in 1985 after just over a year in office, the youngish Gorbachev succeeded to power. Convinced that the Soviet Union and Communism could be reformed and saved, Gorbachev implemented perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness). Both triggered the most powerful centrifugal forces that fractured the Soviet Union half a decade later.
The immediate effect of the leave vote will not approach the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet Union. However, it will ignite other centrifugal forces with unknowable impact. Will other members of the EU react similarly? How will this affect NATO and the "special relationship" between Britain and the United States? Will Scotland or Wales demand a referendum to stay and how will that affect the UK? And will markets recover quickly or will a 2008 like meltdown be generated?
Of course, one can argue that these more frightening prospects will never reach fruition. That, as Adam Smith remarked after Britain lost the Battle of Saratoga to the rebels in 1777 presaging the loss of America, "there is a lot of ruin in a nation." We will see. However, this extraordinary vote could indeed impact on the U.S. election and provide Trump the impetus he sorely needs.
It is early days. The truism that first reports in war are always wrong could apply here. The shock and disappointment of the vote to leave on many of us who argued that this would have dire geostrategic, political and economic consequences could be overreaction. But this may be whistling past the graveyard.
For those who missed it, the first line of this column and its tittle did not come from the Communist Manifesto. The source is the Declaration of Independence. Government is destructive, as the British vote showed. The question is what happens here in November. And tragically, this vote meant that Britain now longer deserves the title of Great.
Harlan Ullman is UPI's Arnaud de Borchgrave Distinguished Columnist and serves as senior adviser for the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, at the Atlantic Council and Business Executives for National Security and chairs two private companies. His last book is "A Handful of Bullets: How the Murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand Still Menaces the Peace." His next book, due out next year, is "Anatomy of Failure: Why America Loses Wars It Starts."