Sometimes I forget that North Korea is real. It’s such a ridiculous country, where a totalitarian dictatorship based on a cult of personality has been taken to a level that even Stalin would think is too much. Did you know, for example, that when the late Supreme Leader Kim Jong Il first picked up a golf club in 1994, he shot a 38-under par round on North Korea’s only golf course? Or that he wrote 1,500 books and six full-length operas while attending college over a three-year period? He even invented the hamburger! Statements like that sound like something a five year-old would make up about themselves, but if North Koreans insinuate that they’re anything other than indisputable fact then they get a one-way trip to a forced labor camp.
If it wasn’t a bastion of human rights violations that’s currently threatening a giant war, North Korea would be pretty funny. But alas, they have a pretty substantial track record of violating basic human rights, and Kim Jong Un is getting pretty militant and not so harmless. North Korea’s missile displays are getting progressively more and more aggressive, and are even testing intercontinental ballistic missiles (take a wild guess which continent they’re thinking of hitting). Normally we’d be invading them by this point, but in this “kinder, gentler” world, we’ve been dragging our feet. Obviously the best course of action is to chastise Kim Jong-Un for his stupid antics, but how that’s going to play out, or if it is, remains to be seen. What is clear is that whatever we’ve been doing isn’t working.
North Koreans have little (if any) contact with the outside world, and the same goes for the country itself. One of the few countries that even has a diplomatic relationship with North Korea is China. As a much bigger country that shares a large border with North Korea, the Chinese could put pressure on them to stop their nuclear program, but it seems unlikely that they’ll try that. The US could invade North Korea, and would definitely win, but it would come at a big cost: the country’s missiles are aimed at their South Korean and Japanese neighbors, so if we did crush Kim Jong-Un, it would be hard to stop him from sending missiles to Tokyo and Seoul, which in turn could be devastating to the world economy.
A lot of people are arguing that the least awful option is to try and cut a deal with North Korea, but that’s a slippery slope: diplomacy works for reasonable countries, which, if you’ve been paying attention to world news at all in the past 20 years, North Korea is not. When Neville Chamberlain kept trying to reason with Hitler in the leadup to World War II, it wasn’t because he was weak, it’s because he thought Hitler was reasonable. But hindsight, as the saying goes, is 20/20, and we all know how Chamberlain’s diplomatic maneuvering turned out. So who the hell knows what’s going to happen?