There are still relics of the Cold War in Seattle. When I worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, I was trained at the regional headquarters in Bothell, which is housed in a nuclear bunker built to withstand a direct hit on Seattle from a Soviet warhead. That Cold War is a memory, but some of the concerns are being revived. When North Korea's dictator, Kim Jong Il, threatens to unleash his nuclear arsenal on America, it's mostly a negotiating tactic. But it works because we believe North Korea actually does have the capability to fire a missile that could hit the U.S. mainland, most likely somewhere in the arc from Alaska to California. That possibility has put our region at ground zero of George W. Bush's missile defense initiativea multibillion-dollar system that is supposed to knock enemy missiles out of the sky. Boeing is a major contractor; Everett is a possible homeport for a new floating radar system. But there are big questions about whether the systemdesigned to fight a war above our headsis much more than a money pit in the sky. Here we offer several views of the issues involved in this underreported story.
Patriot missiles are part of the new system, though they are far from perfect. During the Iraq war, they mistook some coalition aircraft for enemy Scuds.
Missile Defense: The Northwest Front • An introduction. By Knute Berger • The problem with Bush's missile defense plan. By Philip Gold • Heads Up, Seattle. Kim Jong II may be a nut job, but he's a nuclear nut job. By Matt Rosenberg • Should Seattle worry about rogue missile attacks, or the multibillion-dollar program being deployed to stop them? By Fred Kaplan