On his way to Israel last week, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney stopped in Saudi Arabia, where he was given a royal welcome and a medal representing the kingdom's highest decoration. This is the way they treat a man whom King Abdullah wishes to honor, because the Saudis love Cheney. He loves them too and has done a lot of business with them, and will do more in the future.

A Saudi medal. That's what the president and his deputy's battle for world democracy looks like, and that's what their war on terror looks like. Saudi Arabia, the administration's favorite and loyal ally, is a medieval enclave that stones adulterous women and cuts off thieves' hands. Cheney, himself an advocate of interrogation by torture, has a keen interest in the Wahhabi version of "law and order."

When he smells oil - suddenly petrodollars do have a smell - the administration shuts its eyes as in a swoon and no longer cares that Saudi Arabia is the main financier of the terrorists' natural habitats. No wonder then that the State Department's annual Human Rights Report is read today like a joke book.

The Tibetans don't find it funny at all. China too is now an administration favorite, albeit somewhat problematic, so it is permitted to continue its brutal oppression of Tibet. The America keeping mum over Riyadh's crimes will be silent over Beijing's crimes as well. In about five months President George W. Bush will come to the Olympic Games' opening ceremony and probably also receive some decoration at the festive event.

I met the Dalai Lama twice as a minister, to the chagrin of the Foreign Ministry, which always mistakes the shadow of a Chinese threat for a real one. It would not be proper, I thought, to have this special man visit us without meeting an Israeli official. Had the Palestinians followed my lead, he said, and fought for their independence nonviolently, they would have had their state already. I thought he was right.

Now I fear we may have been wrong; perhaps I too was seduced by his winning naivete. The Dalai Lama has been conducting his unarmed struggle for 50 years - who hasn't been captivated by him, who hasn't praised him? But still no achievement is in sight. Tibet's autonomy is as far off as ever.

Neither the Chinese nor Israelis are bound by his nobility. Didn't Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres deport Mubarak Awad, an American-Palestinian who opened a nonviolence center in East Jerusalem some 20 years ago? Hands with no blood on them are especially dangerous - watch out: moderation! Those moderates - there's nothing to do but talk to them, compromise.

The crowns are now turning into thorns. His followers are beginning to ask where he is actually leading them. The day the glow of the Dalai Lama's leadership is dimmed will be the day nonviolent resistance ends. Only the spillers of blood will have any hope in the new world of Bush, Cheney and their cohorts. There will be no more struggles that are "not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit." Only those of arms, and force, and blood, and fire will prevail.