One writer compared North Korea to the fictitious little nation in the Peter Sellers movie, The Mouse That Roared, that declared war on America because it was bankrupt and desperate.
The nation's goal: to immediately surrender to America, then benefit from America's guilt-laden foreign aid that would flow afterward.
The amusing similarity ends soberingly at the desk of Kim Jong Il - who, unlike Peter Sellers, seems quite willing to use, or sell, any nuclear weapons he can get his hands on.
Thus, it is understatement to say the decision by North Korea to restart its nuclear reactor is ominous.
Given that the Clinton administration's policy of bribery and appeasement of North Korea has been an expensive failure, what can be done?
And given that North Korea is already the world's Wal-Mart of black-market arms - and the fact that an Asian nuclear arms race is not only possible but likely if the North Koreans are unchecked - can the United States stop at anything to prevent North Korea from making nuclear bombs?
The likely answer isn't pretty, but it may be inescapable - unless North Korea's neighbors take a more forceful tack, or unless Washington has a rabbit in its hat that we don't know about.
Washington's downplaying of Pyongyang's saber-rattling has helped contain the crisis for now. But how much longer can that work?
Is a nuclear-armed Kim Jong Il any less dangerous than a nuclear wannabe in Iraq?