This post was originally intended to be published on December 4, 2017 – shortly after the initial testing of these sirens on Oahu.
December 1st marked the start of the monthly testing of attack sirens on Oahu, and – as usual – a conversation on Facebook got me to thinking about the article, its purpose, and the long-term implications…
Soooo… then what?
I share those hopes [that tests are the only use for the sirens] as well – too many friends and family there.
The article sort of pissed me off, though. What is the point of even testing, if there’s nowhere to go? All it will do is create panic…
Think of it this way: say the “not a test” day comes, but it was either a far miss or false alarm. How does the state recover and restore order?
The whole situation sucks beyond belief – politically, militarily, economically, and personally.
The problem with a lot of these makers of policy is that they tend to be myopic and view things as they expect to see them. Effective leadership, in this case, would be to look at how the opponent sees it and anticipate/negate any vulnerabilities.
Hawaii has been a strategic weak point for a LONG time. I came across Proceedings articles written in the 1920’s about the logistic vulnerabilities and whatnot. In our present situation, things really haven’t changed much – if you follow the “panic” scenario all the way through, you might find the same conclusion they did back then – Hawaii needs to be viewed as a place for a strong presence and ability to persevere/recover.
To me, the article is extremely irresponsible: it fosters fear and apathy with little in the way of solutions. Yes, the system needed to be tested… but not in a way that poses the local (and international) question of “what then?” Recommendations or indications of measures in place to fix the problem of evacuation and shelter should have been included for publication.
The good thing about this article is that most people will forget about it. The threat may or may not go away, but the questions of “what if” will never be answered.
I wish I didn’t sound so pessimistic, but I can’t help it – the current state of affairs is not sitting well with me.
The problem with quick responses from the top of one’s head is that they often result in muddled information. The article I referenced was one from an earlier paper – James Denning’s “Food – Hawaii’s Vital Problem,” and was published October 1940. Other submissions to Proceedings covered the early days of telecommunications and cited the importance of the Hawaiian Islands as a focal point for trans-Pacific submarine cables, as well as discussions on the potential of the islands as a strategic outpost for the west coast of the continental U.S. Denning’s observations from 1940 haven’t changed much: “…little has been done to date toward actually making Hawaii self-sufficient – except little talk – in the event of war tomorrow or the next day the short-range plan would have to be followed.” Current telecommunications from the American west coast consists of 17 cables, with only 6 of these routing through Hawaii before dispersing throughout the Pacific. As much as the physical lines of communications go, Hawaii no longer stands as the oceanic lynchpin of international communication. Though much has changed from the days of telegraphs, telecommunications cables still serve a vital function in commerce and communication between the U.S. and Asia.
Military, Hawaii still serves as a key location for American military forces. A total of 40,034 active duty personnel called the islands home in 2016, and Oahu hosts a noteworthy presence of each branch of the services. The financial benefits to the state are impressive – $14.7 billion of Hawaii’s economy comes from “direct and indirect impacts of military expenditures,” and 102,000 jobs are created in one of the toughest real estate markets in the nation. The support in training, operations, and other means of support enables the forces stationed throughout the state to effectively project the military power of the U.S. in the Pacific. To belabor the point of threatening such a dense collection of various forces would be a redundant activity…
I had put this post on the back-burner due to other pressing issues and events… Once a moment of solitude had presented itself, I went back to fine-tune posts I had put off and I was miffed at the realization that I had never actually finished this one. The false alarm of January 13, 2018 shook me – my son, his mom, and a lot of dear friends reside on Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii, and to know that those dear to me have been subjected to the same panic I was concerned about over a month ago is more than likely why this post seems disjointed. I had a conversation with a friend currently living on Oahu about the topic:
“At least people now know we as a state, are not fully prepared for what can actually happen.”
When they tested these sirens not too long ago, I (and everyone else with a smidgen of grey matter) knew they were not prepared for the threat which would trigger that warning. I wonder why even bother if there is nothing in place?
As much as I would love to be snarky about the whole Light Rail project, realistically, if those funds and resources were put into developing shelters capable of handling the impact of, say, a 50kt weapon… even IF they started in 2011, they probably still wouldn’t have enough for the present population of Oahu.
Trust me, I know the feeling of looking at the ceiling and wondering if something hateful will come down through it while I sleep… Doesn’t have to be an errant NK nuke – a 107mm rocket will do the same. The difference is, now we’re talking about a large segment of the population that never made a conscious choice to go into harm’s way. In a way, I don’t envy you – work may get more busy – and for that I can only offer my hopes and wishes that I am wrong or that you shine in the moments where your help is needed most.
So… What now?
As weird as it may sound, times like these often bring out the best in people. Not much you can do directly about NK and the threat, but there’s probably a lot you can do to make things worthwhile, sensible, and even relieving for those near ya.
“To be fair, we have only been aware of a possible threat months ago.”
You know me, I tend to have entirely too many tabs open on entirely too many deep topics. I returned to my computer a little while ago to resume where I was in the rabbit hole of NK topics and realized this one was queued: “Secretary Gates and the North Korean Missile Threat.”
Intelligence is an odd discipline – only after the fact do people pay attention. This issue – NK missile capability/threats to regional and extended targets – has been ongoing for a lot longer… but it wasn’t noteworthy news. Of course, now it is a convenient pawn in the Presidential/political blame game… but that doesn’t truly matter.
I’m not blaming Rail at all… I’d really like to, but that would be stooping to the level of looking for the easiest target. I only included it because it stands as a good yardstick of the sheer size of whatever program which would have resulted in sufficient shelters.
“Also from what I’m reading, it really doesn’t physically make sense to build a lot of fallout shelters because most people won’t even really have time to get to them. It would just cause mass havoc.”
It does and it doesn’t. Putting enough lifeboats on a big-assed ship doesn’t do much for the folks in steerage, just like having a fortune in digital currency would do little for anyone within the radius of the EMP that is associated with nuclear weapons. Nice to have, if you have the time to act accordingly… but that doesn’t mean making the effort at all is pointless.
Hell, even with any large metropolitan area, the kind of alert you guys experienced would create complete chaos (hence, one of the reasons we are looking for acreage). Simply put, there really may not be enough time to even confirm that the next one is really a missile or just another stupid error in the system. Still, though, some options (shelters) are better than none, and this event should… ahem… SHOULD be a wake-up call for the decision makers to fulfill their obligations and responsibilities to those they represent, as well as the same responsibilities, plans, and preparation everyone may need.
I have read a lot of responses similar to what many friends have written: “I felt very vulnerable and helpless…” “I was confused…,” “It freaked me the fuck out….,” ect… and I really feel for each and every one of them… random and direct violence on this magnitude is never easy to deal with, and I will try my hardest to do whatever I can from Georgia to help… Yeah, I’m freaked out as well… not just because of the treat to my son, but to his mom, her family, my friends, and a place I still hold dear to my heart… But reason and rationality have to prevail. Individual plans need to be made and, as a group, we need to keep trying to go in a direction where this threat is not “trending news” or the focus of even more political division as to who is/was/will be responsible for the big glowing mess that this could become.
I wish I had answers for ya…
I really wish I had the answers for him and everyone else… but I have only the solutions to my immediate problems.