I always felt that North Korea was one of the great tragedies of the 20th Century. The Korean people, to generalize, possess robust social capital -- a culture of talent, responsibility and ambition. To have that rich potential suppressed, indeed brutalized, by a troglodytic autocracy is, in the vernacular, "#SAD."
The recent increase in tensions has me looking further ahead and assessing possible outcomes. Presumably the goal of the North Korean leadership is their own preservation, and thus they may engage in brinksmanship, but probably won't do anything stupid. But what if they do something precipitous which results in the US toppling the regime?
There are multiple scenarios about how this may play out, but it ranges from a reunification of North and South, to a separate North Korea under kinder, gentler Chinese oversight. Either way the North Koreans would be relieved of the yoke of deprivation, and almost certainly pursue economic development which will compound the existing formidable economic competition from Asia.
Is this the outcome that we in the West want? Many constituencies in the West spend a lot of time complaining about the perniciousness of Asian competition. Do we want to spend lives and dollars to create yet more economic competition from the Far East?
During the French and Indian War, there were arguments in the British government that driving the French out of North America would be problematic, in that the French were a threat to the American colonies, and as such kept the colonies dependent on British protection, and thus tractable and compliant. Indeed many suggest the ouster of the French was the rootstock of the revolution.
Oppression offends democratic sensibilities. I personally am sympathetic to the plight of people living under despotic regimes. But if we undertake to resolve that plight, our efforts may not only go unrewarded, but may produce new and unwelcome challenges.
Besides, without communist make-work jobs, these will be replaced by traffic lights -- who wants to lose these cultural icons?