It need not happen, for the most basic of reasons. Neither Iran nor North Korea could survive all-out war with the United States, and neither has crossed any red line to start such a war.
What do these nations want, and can America accommodate them, without imperiling our security or accepting an intolerable loss of strategic credibility?
What North Korea wants is what President Nixon gave Mao Zedong in the 1970s. Recognition, security guarantees, aid, admission into the international community and an end to the U.S. policy of regime change.
What does America want from North Korea? No more atomic tests, the return of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors into all of North Korea's nuclear facilities and no export of nuclear materials to hostile states or non-state actors that could use nuclear devices as instruments of terror, mass murder or nuclear blackmail.
The six-party talks have failed. North Korea has rejected U.S. offers and resisted U.S. demands, and South Korea and China have balked at using their leverage to back us up. If Beijing and Seoul wish to play a separate hand with Pyongyang, we should play one, too.
We should engage in direct negotiations with the North, warning them that any export of a nuclear device to a hostile regime risks an attack by the United States and any nuclear weapon used against Americans, anywhere, traceable to North Korea will bring certain and massive nuclear retaliation.
However, in return for iron-clad assurances they have opened up all nuclear programs to inspection and given up further development of nuclear weapons, we should offer the North Koreans diplomatic ties, economic aid and a security pact sealed with a U.S. withdrawal of forces from the Korean peninsula.
Great though its crimes, Kim's regime will never equal in evil those of Josef Stalin or Mao, both of whom had nuclear arsenals greater than Kim can ever achieve -- and America never went to war with either.
Meanwhile, put the bellicose bluster on the shelf. It has done less than nothing to advance America's security.