I'm not a political cat. Never have been. I've got enough personal apocalypses to deal with that the larger, global ones—the ones that I've no real control over—get kicked to the curb. I don't read the paper. I don't watch the news. I don't troll the newsblogs. That's what The Daily Show is for: a 23-minute distillation of information and perspective from someone who's viewpoint I trust.
So you'll forgive me if this next bit is a little blunt; my chops at political discourse are dull at best, and nowhere near the ginsu-like sharpness of the Kung-Fu Monkey. But maybe by talking it through I can make some sense of it.
We know, with relative certainty, that North Korea has weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering it to both our allies overseas and across the Pacific to our West Coast. (And just because the first test failed doesn't mean they're not gonna, you know, fix it.) The country is run by a maniac. They've openly declared their hatred for the U.S. Taking all of those things into consideration, our government is aggressively pursuing a diplomatic solution...and sticking to those talk-guns despite N-K's escalation of the situation.
Now, with Iraq. We abandoned diplomacy pretty early into the game and went, with non-talk-guns blazing, into a country that "had" weapons of mass destruction, controlled by a maniac who openly declared his hatred for the U.S. Of course, we were later told that the intelligence was wrong, and that there were no WMDs...but how were we to know that? Sometimes, intelligence is just wrong.
See, I don't think so. I think the intelligence was spot on in that it revealed that Iraq didn't have any WMDs, and led the powers that be to decide it was "safe" to invade. After all, that's the only real difference between the Iraqi situation and the North Korean one: One has nukes and the other doesn't.
Why invade then and not now, if the ultimate mission is still to protect the United States and its citizens from enemies at home and abroad? Because then, nothing could sink its nuclear teeth into our collective asses. And we knew that.