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Keep Interceptor Missiles Out of Hawai’i

An SM-3 Block IIA defensive missile fired from the Aegis Ashore facility on Kauai hit its intermediate-range ballistic missile target in a Dec. 11 test. Photo: Missile Defense Agency.

It’s been reported that interceptor missiles might be deployed soon at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the leeward coast of Kauai (“Hawaii could house missile interceptors sooner than later,” Star-Advertiser, Feb. 3). Defense against missiles from North Korea is the stated purpose. For the people of Hawaii, who experienced the false missile alert of January 2018, a defensive system might sound like a good idea.

Despite the nomenclature, however, the ballistic missile defense system (BMDS) is an offensive weapon. Since ancient times, it has been well-understood that a shield renders one’s sword more formidable. The point of BMDS is to have first-strike capability against one’s enemies.

The Pentagon’s 2018 National Defense Strategy shifted the focus from terrorism back onto great powers competition. Russia and China are the rivals, and North Korea and Iran are the “rogue regimes” of greatest concern. Making Hawaii a launchpad for missiles makes it a target. It makes us less secure. When you received the missile alert, did you look out the window toward Pearl Harbor?

During the Cold War, the U.S. and the Soviet Union arrived at a stalemate via the principle of Mutually Assured Destruction. Either side had sufficient nuclear weapons, particularly submarine-launched ballistic missiles, to survive a first strike by the other side. The threat of devastation by the other side’s remaining weapons helped to stay the finger of American presidents and Soviet premiers on the nuclear button.

The irony is that nobody “wins” when one inherits a post-nuclear winter planet. As Albert Einstein is purported to have said, “I don’t know what weapons will be used in the Third World War. But I can tell you what they’ll use in the Fourth — rocks.”

The people of Oahu are familiar with the massive golf ball-like platform that often sits in Pearl Harbor. That is the Sea-Based X-Band Radar, a $2.2 billion radar component of the BMDS. It is supposed to be able to detect a baseball from across the continent. In order to detect a baseball from such a distance, however, the field of vision must be so narrow that tracking a fast-moving object is nearly impossible.

The X-Band Radar is supposed to be stationed in the Aleutian Islands, so when it’s in Pearl Harbor, it’s there for repairs. At a cost of $8 billion per year, the BMDS represents a transfer of wealth, i.e., funding by taxpayers, by the state to the world’s largest arms corporations, including Boeing (the lead contractor), and Raytheon (the extra-atmospheric kill vehicle), their stock prices rising on the announcement of contracts. Bechtel and Lockheed Martin run the testing facilities in the Marshall Islands.

Hawaii’s U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz was quoted as saying, “Our main objective is to protect the homeland and our home in Hawaii. To do that, we must rely on the experts.”

The trouble is that those experts are planning for nuclear war and making a profit in the meantime. We suggest, instead, planning for peace. We in Hawaii can become experts at that.

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Seiji Yamada, a native of Hiroshima, is a family physician practicing and teaching in Hawaii.

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