“The U.S. has no good options.” How many times have we heard that refrain in the days since North Korea attacked the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong?
In fact, even calling our options “options” is optimistic. We have obligations. Foremost among these is our obligation to “act to meet the common danger” now manifest in North Korea, as stipulated by a mutual defense treaty signed in 1953. Even if the president wanted to stay clear of the action in the Koreas, he couldn’t do so without breaking America’s promise to a long-standing democratic ally.
After obligations, we have hopes. We hope China will rein in the aggressive regime in Pyongyang. We hope that that regime is being tactically provocative and not irrevocably bellicose. We hope Kim Jong-il wants aid or summitry or a smooth transition of leadership for his son, not the destruction of his neighbor to the South. But we can’t know. Decades of bad bipartisan policy have left us guessing at the deathbed motives of a nuclear-armed paranoiac.
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