Roger Cohen - After Aleppo, now comes the agony of Eastern Ghouta. This suburb of Damascus, the last rebel-held enclave close to the Syrian capital, is bombarded by Bashar al-Assad’s forces for weeks on end, with Russian air support. More than 900 people, including many children, are killed. Hospitals are targeted in what François Delattre, the French ambassador to the United Nations, has called “a siege worthy of the Middle Ages.” Pregnant women bleed to death. Some 400,000 people are trapped.

France and Britain convene an emergency meeting of the Security Council and press for enforcement of last month’s Resolution 2401, calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities. In this effort, the United States is nowhere, silent, AWOL, as President Vladimir Putin and his Syrian sidekick do their worst. The message to Moscow is clear: Donald Trump’s America does not care about Syria, or war crimes, or human rights. Russian cynicism and American absence produce disaster.

Yes, it has come to this.

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, calls Putin. He dispatches his foreign minister to Moscow and Tehran in an attempt to stop the slaughter. Trump, to whom moral indignation — indeed morality itself — is a stranger, does not care. His Middle East foreign policy has two components: Back Israel, bash Iran. With respect to Putin, he is compromised, or enamored, to the point of incapacity. Let Syria burn.

Yes, it has come to this.

In Hungary, a European Union country, committed by treaty to the Union’s founding principles of “the rule of law and respect for human rights,” Viktor Orban, the prime minister, declares that, “We do not want to be diverse and do not want to be mixed; we do not want our own color, traditions and national culture to be mixed with those of others.” Now, what color, precisely, are Hungarians, and what color were the nearly 440,000 Jews deported by the Nazis, mostly to Auschwitz, in 1944 with the cooperation of Hungarian authorities?

Mateusz Morawiecki, the prime minister of Poland, another European Union member state, defends a new law that makes it a crime to accuse “the Polish nation” of complicity in any “Nazi crimes committed by the Third Reich.” He says there were also “Jewish perpetrators” of the Holocaust.

These illiberal European leaders are empowered by Trump’s dalliance with despotism and by his indifference to the distinction between truth and lies.

They have the wind at their backs. They can lie lightly. The values-based American pushback against bigotry, in the name of liberty, human rights and the rule of law, has vanished. If the American idea is indivisible from America, Trump is a pure impostor.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the outgoing United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, tells it like it is: “Today oppression is fashionable again; the security state is back, and fundamental freedoms are in retreat in every region of the world. Shame is also in retreat. Xenophobes and racists in Europe are casting off any sense of embarrassment.” He continues with a question: “Have we all gone completely mad?”

Yes, shame is in retreat; decency too. Freedom is in retreat. The American president expresses semi-joking approval for Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, extending his rule indefinitely.

It has come to this.

A counterrevolution against liberal democracy is in full swing. The preceding revolution, as the author Paul Berman put it to me, was “large-scale.” It may be traced from 1968, a half-century ago, through the revolutions of 1989, and on to the Arab Spring that began in late 2010. It involved women’s rights; the civil rights movement; anti-authoritarianism in all forms; the spread of liberal democratic practices into formerly communist European states; and the Arab uprising — now largely dashed — against despotism and for the personal agency that only freedom offers.

Why the illiberal counterrevolution? “First,” Berman tells me, “because there’s always a counterrevolution! Second, fear. You can only understand the macho cartoons that are Putin and Trump through the fear aroused by the revolution in women’s rights. Fear of globalization, too, and then we have this cultural collapse that leads so many Americans to be incapable of seeing at a glance that Trump should not be president.”

Yes, it has come to this. And it’s dangerous. And it’s frightening.

Seventy years ago this year, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted, founded on Franklin Roosevelt’s four pillars of “freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want.” It reflected a core premise of the postwar, American-led order: That “human rights should be protected by the rule of law” if cycles of violence were to be avoided. At its 50th anniversary in 1998, it seemed the world had united around these principles.

Trump knows nothing, and cares even less, about these now threatened values. It has comes to this.

Yet the fight for Eastern Ghouta is no less than the fight for this planet’s decency. It must and will continue. Shame, in retreat, has not died. As Bernard-Henri Lévy notes in “The Empire and the Five Kings,” his forthcoming book, “the last word is never said.” –New York Times