Early demonstrations of the missile defense technology that Sen. Ted Stevens and high-ranking military officials hope to base at Fort Greeley simply don't inspire much confidence.
More research and development work would appear to be needed before the nation commits to spending the huge sums -- on the order of $60 billion -- needed for the envisioned system of ground-based defensive missiles.
It's probably best to continue pursuing the basic research hand in hand with diplomatic efforts aimed at ensuring the creation of a missile shield doesn't backfire by unleashing a renewed arms race. In the meantime, however, proceeding with construction of a new X-band radar system on Shemya, a related project with an estimated cost of roughly $85 million, would seem to be a reasonable investment to protect U.S. interests.
Despite the technological and political difficulties encountered so far, Alaskans don't have to look much past the horizon to grasp the need for a missile shield.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il confirmed this week that his country regards the development and sale of missiles to Iran and Syria as a straightforward commercial venture.
''Developing a rocket generates hundreds of millions of dollars. How could you stop it?'' Kim was quoted saying in South Korean newspaper accounts.
As long as that outlook prevails in Pyongyang, developing the best possible long-range missile-tracking capability is a truly defensive and justifiable step.
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