Syria’s conquest of Lebanon is the first fruits of the Bush administration’s Middle Eastern policy. While 200,000 American soldiers were fighting off boredom in Saudi Arabia, our newest noble ally in the region, “President” Assad of Syria, was storming the Christian positions in Beirut. With a 40,000-man force that included hundreds of Soviet T-54 tanks, the Syrian army finally broke the resistance of the Christian militia headed by General Michel Aoun. Early reports put the casualties at 300, but the death toll has climbed to at least 750, including a large number of Christian militiamen who were shot with their hands tied behind their backs.

The Syrian conquest, conducted under the very feeble pretext of assistance to the Syrian-backed Lebanese President Hrawi, marks the end not just of the fifteen-year civil war in Lebanon but of the country itself The tragedy of Lebanon is also a milestone in the deteriorating relations between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East. In the 1950’s, Lebanon was a shining example of what a free economy and political toleration could achieve in a multiethnic society. The Christian half of the population did exercise a sort of political preeminence, but this special position was largely the effect of the economic success of the pro-Western, French-educated Christians. When pan-Arab nationalists attempted to overthrow the constitutional government of President Camille Chamoun in 1958, President Eisenhower was quick to send in the Marines to defend a legitimate government that governed the only free and thriving country in the Arab world. He was also, as we all knew, defending a people whose religion and way of life had much in common with our own.

Even in the midst of almost continuous civil war, the Lebanese people—Christian and Muslim alike—displayed incredible fortitude. All they needed, it seemed, was a few months of comparative peace, and they were busy repairing houses and hotels and rebuilding the economy. Now, after a suitable period of massacre and pillaging, the Lebanese can become the exploited subjects of a greater Syrian empire. Their new leader is more ruthless than Saddam Hussein, more savage even than the Hitler-Hussein of George Bush’s nightmares. But, as we like to say in America, he’s “our S.O.B.”

There is considerable speculation in Washington that the Bush administration gave Assad the green light, but Assad hardly needed any encouragement. As our faithful ally at this difficult juncture, he knew he could count on the silence, if not the support of the United States. How times have changed. In 1958 a moderate Republican administration sent in the Marines to protect the Christian pro-Western government of Camille Chamoun; in 1990 another moderate Republican President sends troops to defend the virulently anti-Christian royal house of Saud and connives at the massacre of Lebanese Christians, including the son of former president Chamoun: a week after General Aoun’s surrender. Christian leader Dany Chamoun, who remained in Beirut under Syrian protection, was brutally murdered along with his wife and two children. What is the administration’s response to this violent and brutal conquest? The State Department would only comment that it hoped Aoun’s surrender “ends a sad chapter of Lebanon’s history.” So much for America’s determination to resist aggression.

As the Gulf farce continues, we are provided with almost daily evidence that George Bush is a worthy successor to Jimmy Carter. It was under Garter that the crusade for international human rights came out in the open as a campaign against national sovereignty, and throughout the so-called crisis in the Gulf, the key American decisions have nearly all been justified on the grounds of collective security, the United Nations, or international human rights. Within a mere 48-hour period, President Bush once again denounced Saddam Hussein as another Hitler, threatening him with a war crimes trial, if there were any more incidents of Iraqi soldiers shooting civilians. As if American soldiers have never shot civilians, as if that were all that Heinrich Himmler was accused of, as if the Nuremberg trials were not a travesty of every decent principle of national and international law. As Churchill among so many others insisted at the time, the worst of the Nazis should have been shot as soon as they were captured, without setting a precedent that could some day be used against Britain and America. As the tide turns against nuclear weapons, will the United States someday be required to pay reparations to the Japanese?

But worse, far worse than the reckless Presidential rhetoric was the U.N. resolution to send a delegation to Israel to investigate the killing of 21 Palestinians. The United States, eager to appease its vehemently anti-Christian allies in the Arab world, voted in favor of the resolution, provoking the Israeli countermove: the decision to step up the settlement of Soviet Jews in East Jerusalem.

Many if not most Americans probably deplore the excessive force used by the Israeli government against Palestinians, and many if not most would be delighted to see the United States begin lowering its foreign aid to Israel, foreign aid that enables the government of Israel to provide a welfare safety net far in excess of what we enjoy here. Some Americans, at least, would be content to see Israel withdraw from its occupied territories and allow the establishment of a Palestinian state. But these are all practical matters of Realpolitik, in which there is room for disagreement. What is frightening. however, is our blithe willingness to abridge the sovereignty of an allied state by supporting the United Nations’ claim to stick its nose in, every time there is a question of an oppressed minority. The day is coming when we won’t have the votes and won’t have the backing of the Soviets. George Bush’s New World Order will seem less attractive, when Americans have to face a series of U.N. delegations that come to investigate conditions on Indian reservations and to guarantee the rights of Puerto Rican separatists and black nationalists.

The Israelis are justifiably upset with the United States, and not just over the U.N. resolution. There are rumors that the Israelis, alarmed at the expansion of Syrian territory right up to their doorstep, are hinting at the possibility of a strike against Syria. The possibilities for Armageddon appear to be multiplying. If one can believe a report in the French L’Express, the Bush administration has serious plans of attacking Iraq as soon as the elections are safely out of the way.