All of this is complicated, of course, by Trump’s involvement. He has a thing for murderous autocrats, and his unending flattery of Kim is — and should be — cringe-inducing for anybody who loves liberty, human rights, or basic decency. Trump being Trump, there is also an element of dishonesty involved: No, the United States was not about to go to war with North Korea before he became president. But those qualities, for once, might make Trump the perfect man for this moment. Only Nixon could go to China; it may be that only Trump can go to Pyongyang.
Of course, efforts to get other countries to stay nuclear-free might stand a better chance if Trump had not recently withdrawn from the INF Treaty. He also appears intent on enlarging America’s already-substantial nuclear arsenal for the first time in decades. “Do as I say, not as I do” is generally a poor strategy, no matter the issue.
Some problems get so big, they can’t be solved. They can only be managed. The U.S. foreign policy establishment has not admitted that North Korea’s nuclear program has moved into that category, but it should be apparent to just about everybody else. So it is time to try to move to a world in which we live with North Korea having nukes so that, well, we can live.