Of course, just as President Clinton declared that “it depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,” it now depends on what the meaning of the word ‘it’ is.
Complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization (CVID), as Washington defines its objective, remains unlikely. It just is not in the interest of North Korea's present leadership. However, the administration should attempt to convince the Kim regime otherwise. Although doing so requires making concessions and following through on commitments. In any case, even the fruitless pursuit of CVID could lead to other benefits—limits on the DPRK threat as well as improvements in the security environment that make the use of force by any party far less likely.
North Korea remains one of the globe’s toughest foreign policy challenges. The United States should not allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good. Against the advice of uber-hawks, including his administration’s own John Bolton, who has firmly advocated war against North Korea, President Trump has reduced the likelihood of conflict on the peninsula. He should continue down this peaceful path.
Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. A former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.