North Korea is a joke. And that’s the problem.

It is understandable that we would want to deny the North Korean regime any legitimacy. It is an ugly government that does ugly things to its own people and its neighbors.

Yet we should be honest with ourselves about what our revulsion entails. We are refusing to deal with the North Koreans — whether we justify it, as President George W. Bush did, by comparing them to children who throw their food on the floor or whether we hide behind meaningless policy catchphrases, like the Obama administration’s “strategic patience.” We are forgoing any meaningful opportunity to slow or constrain their nuclear development. We are not making any effort to open their appalling system; in fact, we are helping close it off.

Perhaps one day we’ll stop laughing and notice that a brutal, nuclear-armed North Korea that terrorizes its citizens and its neighbors isn’t all that funny. They’d like that.