The world’s nations are understandably concerned about the impending threat of nuclear attack from the Kim dynasty in North Korea, but this crisis is merely the latest phase of the 72-years’ long existence of that Communist regime. Encouraged by President Franklin Roosevelt at the last minute to enter the war against Japan, the Soviet Union quickly occupied Manchuria and North Korea in 1945, generating perpetual tension in that region.

Only five years later, North Korea invaded South Korea, plunging the peninsula into a bloody war ended only by armistice in 1953. Thus, the original invaders are still in a state of war with their intended victims and their allies, including the United States. In the years since, there have been many provocative actions, most notably the seizure of the U.S.S. Pueblo in 1968 and numerous incidents in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing North and South.

As long as South Korea and the United States have kept up a sufficient force, North Korea has been deterred from renewing what it started in 1950. Unfortunately, whenever evidence of a nuclear buildup has developed, the American response has temporized with, rather than ended, the threat, whatever presidential administration was in office. We have offered mostly carrots and few sticks.

Now we have arrived at a situation that only the most blind among us can ignore, as the quirky Kim Jong Un seeks to exploit his possession of nuclear weapons and an ominous capacity to deliver them with long-range missiles. There is every reason to take this threat seriously, of course, and we may not have much time to arrest it.

Of course, possessing nuclear weapons and missiles is one thing; the capacity to miniaturize them enough to insert them onto a warhead, and to design a delivery system to get them to their intended targets, is something else again. But however formidable are the obstacles to these achievements, we must not underestimate our enemy’s seemingly satanic determination to put the northeast Asian region and the United States in deadly danger.

The immediate missile threat to our country is not so much the possible destruction of major cities within range of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICMBs), but the equally ominous threat to our missile and bomber bases, the object of which is to neutralize a retaliatory response. Advances in atomic and missile technology have completely altered the dynamics of nuclear warfare, scant comfort, though, when one considers that once our strike forces are crippled, population centers may well be next.

So, considering all of this, what is to be done? A direct military strike has already been ruled out because so much of South Korea’s population is only a few miles from enemy territory, which could be decimated by North Korea’s long-range artillery without the necessity of resorting to nuclear weapons. That definitely concentrates the mind, not to mention the threat of an actual nuclear attack on American targets.

That leaves less messy but potentially no less dangerous options, such as a precision strike on Kim Jong Un and his immediate entourage which, I have been assured by persons more steeped in these matters than I, is well within our capability. But success is everything. With GPS technology, a direct hit is highly likely. The real problem may be managing the internal and external fallout if either resistance remains in North Korea or vacillation afflicts South Korea.

Another possibility is a military coup, perhaps engineered by someone in the regime who is in a compromised position, and enabled by numerous Un-hating military brass anxious to remove the continual threat to their lives which the young Un has shown no compunction about carrying out (e.g. uncles, brothers, generals).

The Trump Administration has sent mixed signals in the current crisis, from sending aircraft carriers, firing missiles and anti-missiles, and making flyovers near the DMZ; to diplomatic language from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to the effect that we do not regard the North Korean regime as our enemy or that we have no plans to take out Kim Jong Un. I hope that talk is not serious, for the clock is ticking and we have very little time.

What I really hope is that the soft talk is designed to induce complacency in our enemy, even as we plan serious operations to remove the current threat. We have some formidable military leaders, such as James Mattis at Defense, John Kelly at Homeland Security (now chief of staff), and H.R. McMaster, national security advisor, who doubtless are knowledgeable and capable enough to pull this thing off.

The guiding principle in all of this is that “failure is not an option.” We need to act effectively and quickly.

Richard Reeb taught political science, philosophy and journalism at Barstow Community College from 1970 to 2003. He is the author of "Taking Journalism Seriously: 'Objectivity' as a Partisan Cause" (University Press of America, 1999). He can be contacted at rhreeb@verizon.net