The answer is yes.
European political instability and regional nationalism are historically dangerous instruments of human suffering. In the past fifty years, except for pockets of terrible violence in former Yugoslavia, we have largely avoided the terrors that European fragmentation have unleashed on the world.
Of my immigrant ancestors that I am aware of, more than four out of five left Europe because of starvation and violence rooted in that continent's fragmentation. My Palatine German ancestors fled the Rhine river valley as it was sacked by waves of French and British troops in the 17th and 18th centuries. My Irish ancestors fled the famines induced by the English domination of Ireland, which in turn was connected to Protestant suspicions of Irish Catholic religious and political connections to the mainland. Even my Pilgrim ancestors fled the Church of England, established in Holland, and then immigrated to America because their religious way of life made no sense in an increasingly nationalistic England and Holland of the 17th century.
As attested by two world wars and countless smaller conflicts, Europe can be a dangerous place. But the common market provided by the European Union has made it a safer place. The common market helps reconcile the interests of the Germans, British, French, Italians, and Spanish the largest economic powers of Europe. When continental elites benefit from economic cooperation across the continent, they are less likely to drag their nations into war.
Yesterday the enfranchised voters in the Kingdom of Britain cast a protest vote against the idea of Europe, and demanded that the government at Westminster withdraw from the European Union.
The fact that the British electorate even had a vote was something of a historical oddity. The decision to join the European Union has typically been made in bureaucratic terms, and largely for bureaucratic reason of facilitating trade, with the added known bonus of reducing the incentive for violent conflict.
But David Cameron agreed to hold the vote in order to appease the far-right members of his own party, and the nationalistic (some say xenophobic) United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). The far-right agreed to support Cameron's continued premiership, and in return he promised them a vote on Britain's membership in the EU.
In holding the vote, Cameron assumed that the British people would, on the day of reckoning, listen to his advice and simply agree to remain within the common market.
But nationalistic politics are dangerous. Nationalism is hard to pin down, difficult to control, and most often develops on playgrounds and kindergarten classrooms rather than in the adult world of economic stability, long-term economic performance, and national security. Nationalism is about fear and jealousy, pride and prejudice.
The voters who demanded that Britain leave the European Union are not wholly senseless.
It is true, for example, that the British working class has suffered, and this was also reflected in yesterday's vote. Margaret Thatcher ruthlessly broke the unions in the 1980s, sold off public assets and businesses, and reduced state protections for lower income families.
But larger forces were also in play, far beyond the scope of the British government, or the one in Brussels. China opened up to international markets. Eastern Europe emerged from the Soviet Union. Radical Islam swept through the Middle East. American military power flailed restlessly against opponents too amorphous to squash, and instead weakened the foundations of nation-states across the world.
In sum, David Cameron made a historic miscalculation. The British voters were either angry, confused, or simply disenchanted with the idea of Europe.
The Brits who wanted to remain in the EU failed to mount a meaningful campaign. But David Cameron did not give them an easy task. It is hard to explain to voters that by saying 'yes' to Europe you are not necessarily saying 'no' to Britain; and that economic security is one of the best ways to ensure international security.
A sliver of the British electorate--perhaps even the sliver that swung the election--may have been reacting to the British-national spirit that swung through the country on the eve of 2014's Scottish referendum. Then, many politicians (Labour and Conservative, Scottish, Welsh and Irish) begged the Scots to keep Britain together. A year later, and those same politicians were demanding that Britain stay in Europe. For the country's elite, the relationship between these various conceptions of sovereignty is obvious, but perhaps it is foggy for those less drenched in the terminology of security studies, international relations, and economics.
At this point, it is not clear that it matters. Perhaps the bravest course for British politicians would be to defy the voters and remain in the European Union regardless of the outcome of the referendum. The EU is, after all, a treaty, and perhaps beyond the scope of direct democracy.
That is unlikely. Cameron has already pledged to begin the withdraw, even as he has set a timeline for his own removal from the premiership, tail between his legs.
Political events often diffuse throughout regions. The outcome of the British referendum will likely spawn other protests against the EU in less wealthy and less stable European states.
Over the past half century, Europe has been a model of security and stability despite possessing historic animosities dating back at least a millennia.
The world is a less stable and less safe place today than it was before the referendum took place.