So that’s what’s missing! (How ironic!)
Short on manpower to conduct its multifront war against terrorism, and short on the diplomatic successes required to bring peace to those contentious regions, the United States now also finds itself with a sudden, potentially critical shortage of irony.
In a report due to be made public next week, the Department of Self-Awareness is expected to disclose that the nation’s strategic irony reserves stand at their lowest level in decades. The report, the result of a six-month investigation, points out widespread monitoring and supervisory failures, and calls for a Manhattan Project-style initiative to restore irony to its appropriate place in America’s efforts around the globe.
“The inability to see ourselves as others see us,” the report’s Executive Summary declares, “continues to be one of the greatest impediments to American leadership in the world. A nation that constantly preaches ideals needs to make sure its own house is in order—or, at the very least, needs to acknowledge the occasional inconsistency.”
The report comes at a time of increasing assertiveness—some would call it bellicosity—on the part of the Bush administration. President Bush and Vice President Cheney have issued a series of strongly worded warnings to the leaders of Iran, demanding that they halt any efforts aimed at producing nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, other nations in both hemispheres have also felt the sting of administration rhetoric. This approach, the report suggests, is not without its risks.
“The danger is that the United States becomes the world’s biggest nag,” explained a DSA official deeply involved in drafting the report, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “If it’s all ‘Do as I say, not as I do’—well, a little of that goes an awfully long way.”
The official cited recent administration warnings to Turkey to use restraint in dealing with Kurdish separatists operating along its border with Iraq, and continued American demands that Iran not meddle in Iraq’s internal affairs.
“Does he have any idea how absurd that sounds coming from us?” this official asked, referring to Mr. Bush. “We’re the ones with 160,000 troops in Iraq! They’re the ones who live in the neighborhood, who share the borders.”
The official also referred to the president’s recent harsh criticism of Castro-regime policies in Cuba, including its mistreatment and imprisonment of dissidents. This, despite ongoing revelations of America’s own detention and “rendition” policies regarding suspected terrorists, plus allegations of American interrogators engaging in torture, and the administration’s unwillingness to clearly disavow interrogation techniques such as waterboarding.
“To be able to say those kinds of things with a straight face,” the DSA official concluded, “we’ve absolutely run out of irony. And nobody saw it coming.”
The White House declined immediate comment, citing national-security concerns. But a senior administration official, speaking on background, attempted to downplay the significance of the report’s findings.
“It’s old news,” this official contended. “I mean, the United States is an earnest country with very strong beliefs about how other people should conduct themselves? Stop the presses!”
Still, the report’s appearance, at a time of record-low poll numbers for the president, is sure to stoke demands for a change in administration tone, if not in policy. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House oversight committee, announced today that hearings on the irony shortfall were likely within the next two weeks, and that administration officials from several departments would be called to testify.
Asked whether the prospect of a president with extremely low poll numbers being investigated by a Congress with even lower poll numbers might itself be considered ironic, a Waxman aide replied, “Certainly not.”
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at email@example.com.