There are seven postulates that ought to inform U.S. policy regarding North Korea.
First, our objective. Nothing is more important than to be clear about what we are trying to accomplish.
Second, the adversary. Kim Jong-un is a loathsome dictator who presides over a repressive state that keeps its impoverished people in bondage.
Third, the regional context. The North Korean crisis is a subset of a much larger development, namely, the ongoing redistribution of power in East Asia that is rendering obsolete the post-1945 order.
Fourth, the allies. U.S. behavior over the past couple of decades has done little to inspire confidence among our friends and allies.
Fifth, the media. The national media is obsessed with Trump and is determined to bring him down. Why pretend otherwise?
Sixth, strategy for the near-term. Experience during the seven decades since Hiroshima and Nagasaki shows that deterrence works. It can work with a nuclear-armed North Korea as well.
Seventh, strategy for the longer term. Deterrence won’t solve the problem posed by North Korea, but will keep that problem within manageable bounds. Making the problem go away will require progress toward the larger challenge of reconfiguring the distribution of power in East Asia.
Unfortunately, an administration top heavy with generals, burdened with a somnolent secretary of state, and headed by a bombastic and unprincipled chief executive is almost surely incapable of recognizing either the problem or the opportunity that it faces.
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