Thank God it was a mistake!!

Shades of the Cold War this morning and a reminder of our perilous international moment as news broke that residents of Hawaii received an emergency alert of a ballistic missile launch. It took precious (and terrifying) minutes for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency to issue a statement that it was a mistake. As one person tweeted, “That is a hell of a mistake to make. #Wow.”

There was always an umbrella of fear during the Cold War that there was a chance that a civilization-ending conflict could engulf the globe in a matter of minutes. And there was always a chance that it could be spurred by a tragic mistake amidst a cascade of hair-trigger reactions. The dangers today are not nearly as grave as then, but this umbrella of uncertainty has returned.

Let this morning’s mistake be a lesson in the dangers of talking loosely about nuclear weapons and using an undisciplined twitter finger to conduct what should be sensitive international negotiations.

This false alarm also demands a full-scale investigation. No backside covering, no cover-up; a full accounting–full transparency–  about what happened and why (we need more than just employee error.)  And heads should roll (and not just low-level heads; top people must be held accountable.)

Then there this: every citizen and every family should think about, “what should I do, what should we do if  ever—God forbid—a real such alert is sounded?” And have a plan. A personal plan and a family plan.

No, we don’t want to think about it. But think of it we must. We live in times that require it. Everybody should be prepared for the worst. Because everybody may have to face it. Steady should always be our guide, our mantra. Steady with a plan to stay alert and be prepared.