I saw this headline (North Korea Paradox) on the NYT this morning and was reminded of a cartoon about Iran's nuclear program that ran about 10yrs ago. The cartoon was a picture of Uncle Sam wearing a king's crown sitting on a throne made of missiles telling former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was on his knees before the throne, with Uncle Sam saying "don't make the same mistake I made".
If not for the military capability North Korea has built up there is a chance the U.S. would have removed their leadership long ago. Yet, if not for the military build up the U.S. may not have paid North Korea any mind. The pardox is that the very activities which are drawing threats from the U.S. are the same activities which protect them from those threats. From Kim Jong Un's point a view a quick look around the world at places like Iraq, Yemen, and Syria the U.S. doesn't hesitate sending in special forces, drones, and jet fighters when a countries defense are weak. We (USA) just casually dropped a 22,000lbs on Afghanistan. One of the things which has kept us out of Iran and is keeping us out of North Korea is that they have WMDs. Obviously there are other factors. Iran is supported by Russia and North Korea is supported by China.
If the goal, USA's goal, is to keep WMDs out of the hands of dictators and stymie the proliferation of nuclear weapons is the threat of force the way to do it? If military strength is the asset that allows the U.S. to lead on these matters than isn't military strength the asset others will attempt to emulate? It does seem that once a country succeeds in arming themselves substantially enough, think China & Russia, the threat of preemptive attack is removed. Are we (USA) pushing North Krea is the very direction we insist they don't go?