North Korea, it seems, cannot stop provoking the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the hard truth is that the rest of the world has no idea what to do about it.

The Latest Conflict

On August 29, the rogue nation fired a missile that flew over the Japanese island of Hokkaido.  On September 3, it upped the stakes yet again by testing a hydrogen bomb. Both events culminated in the usual displays of outrage from all the relevant parties.

How did we get here? Some say that it’s because America has been too weak. Others tout the need for a diplomatic solution (whatever that means). In any case, this strength versus diplomacy battle of foreign policy wonks continues to this day, and has been renewed in light of North Korea’s growing aggression.

Some, in light of the urgency of the situation, have gotten creative with their proposed solutions. However, most of these alternative solutions are just as crazy as the idea that Kim Jong-un’s regime will come to its senses if we just sit down and talk with them. The dumbest by far was from Kevin James, who advocated for a preemptive nuclear strike in a Washington Examiner op-ed.

It is impossible to top that in terms of absolute non-starters, but that has not stopped others from trying.

Official Disagreements

While a lot of people in Washington have good theories, they can’t agree on how to proceed.

Before he left the White House, Steve Bannon was interviewed by The American Prospect, and laid out his strategy. He proposed a deal with China, where Beijing got Pyongyang to freeze its nuclear buildup. In exchange, North Korea would submit to inspections, and American troops would be withdrawn from South Korea.

Relying on a deal with inspections is how we got into his predicament in the first place.  Plus, the last time the we removed our troops from the Korean Peninsula, we ended up with the Korean War.

President Trump has a different idea. He tweeted that “The United States is considering…stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea.”

This is a viable option… if you are willing to crash the economy.  If you are not, then this is nothing but another empty threat.

The Military Non-Starter

Former UN Ambassador John Bolton offered his own pie in the sky solution in a recent Fox News segment. He said, “The only diplomatic option left is to end the North Korean regime by effectively having the South take it over.”

This theory sounds great, but in what universe is it going to happen? A proposed strike may work out well in novels, or movies, or even mental exercises. But in the real world, a preemptive attack on a nuclear-armed enemy with a nuclear-armed ally is far too dangerous.

Nuclear weapons aside, the North has thousands of conventional artillery pieces just waiting to rain down death and destruction upon Seoul. Do we really want to trigger that kind of destruction carelessly?

Ultimately, a proposed military strike on North Korean nuclear facilities has way too many variables.

What Little Remains

The unfortunate reality is there is no military solution to North Korea’s nuclear program. There is no diplomatic solution, either. So, where does that leave us?

The only thing it appears the United States can do is to continue applying tougher sanctions. This is frustrating, because anyone who has been awake throughout the past eleven years knows full well that sanctions will not convince the regime to denuclearize.

The only way to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula is for the regime to collapse. There are only two ways that is going to happen. The first is war. The second is the realization that what cannot go on forever will not go on forever.

Staying Open To New Ideas

The United States should do everything it can to suck the economic life out of the North Korean regime. We must also strengthen our deterrence capabilities in the region, in order to help secure the regime’s eventual downfall.

Unfortunately, the alternative solutions many have proposed for dealing with North Korea’s nuclear program have ranged from the asinine to the impossible. If someone has any feasible ideas for how to solve the North Korean nuclear problem without risking Armageddon, we should be all ears. Until then, it is time we all started looking at North Korea realistically.

Let’s stop lying to ourselves. Unless something drastic changes, there is no way to rid the North of its nuclear weapons while the Kim dynasty still rules.