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Hugo Shorter

British Ambassador to Lebanon

Part of UK in Lebanon

16th June 2017 Beirut, Lebanon

The Terrorists Won’t Win: What Does This Mean?

After each terrorist attack, we repeat to ourselves the reassuring mantra that the terrorists won’t win, and they won’t. But on one level, the mantra can sound empty.

Terrorists will, sadly, continue to kill and spread fear across many regions of the world. The recent attacks and harrowing experiences of Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge will never leave the survivors, and the loss of loved ones will never fully heal for the families and friends of those killed.

Unity has never been more important as extremists pursue an agenda of bloodshed and division across the globe. The recent tragic events in Baghdad, Tehran, Egypt, Afghanistan, Nigeria, London and Manchester have highlighted the extreme suffering caused at the hands of these terrorists; and in Iraq and Syria, thousands of people are still forced to live under Daesh’s brutal rule.

We can, and will, fight back with force; with solid preparation; and with determination. In London, the attackers were shot within eight minutes, and the police and emergency services have rightly been praised for their preparedness and rapid response, which helped to stop the casualty numbers rising even higher.

The first priority for any government is to defend its citizens when they come under attack. As part of our work in Lebanon, the UK is advising the government on crisis preparedness; helping the police to better protect the public through community policing; equipping and training the LAF to defend the borders against Daesh; and sharing our expertise on counter-terrorism.

But this security response is not enough. After the shock and horror of the attacks, it’s only natural to ask – what on earth do these people hope to achieve?

Terrorists want to hurt us, but they want something else, too – both in the UK and in Lebanon.

“Winning” for the terrorists goes far beyond just killing and maiming innocent people who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The active terrorist groups of today, including the largest, such as Da’esh or Al Qaida, know they won’t bring about a so-called caliphate in Paris, Berlin or London and their territory continues to crumble in Syria and Iraq. The UK is playing a leading role in the Global Coalition Against Daesh. Our collective efforts are bearing fruit. Daesh have lost over two thirds of the ground they once occupied in Iraq and nearly half of that held in Syria. More than 2.5 million people have now been freed from their tyrannical rule. But if winning isn’t about holding territory, what’s the point for Daesh?

Looking at the use of terror over the last 60 or more years, there is a common feature that returns over and over again: the efforts of the terrorist to polarise society, turning it into the arena of an “us against them” conflict which boosts the numbers of terrorists and their supporters.

They commit horrors in our societies because they want us to vilify, exclude and isolate populations which then become easy prey for radical ideologies. In other words, terrorists want to destroy our freedoms and the tolerant society we live in, destroying precisely those people willing to build bridges and isolate the terrorists. They feed off, racism and discrimination. As Nicolas Henin, the French journalist held captive by Daesh for 10 months wrote afterwards, “Central to their world view is the belief that communities cannot live together with Muslims, and every day their antennae will be tuned towards finding supporting evidence… Cohesion, tolerance – it is not what they want to see.”

So what to do? This is not the right place to set out a comprehensive response. We must allow people to live dignified, fulfilling and happy lives, and find the right balance between security and civil liberties. This is of course easier said than done. But what about citizens? Well, I suggest not giving the terrorists what they want, and showing unity where they want to see division: being vigilant and very firmly standing up to extreme views; but avoiding the temptation to stigmatise or dehumanise; and whilst not allowing any excuses for violent extremism, avoiding behaviours that feed it such as isolation, prejudice and discrimination.

This can be difficult enough if you have a strong state able to protect the vast majority of citizens within a legal framework. Where the state is weaker, the behaviour of community leaders, teachers, parents and of each individual becomes even more important.

In Lebanon, citizens committed to co-existence based on mutual respect and tolerance is what will save the country in the long run from violent extremism and sectarianism. It means building coalitions of those who believe that Lebanon can and should be stronger than an unstable model of individual sects living alongside each other, but in separate ghettos. All over the world, it means truly living together, knowing the other, and trusting in the common values we hold.

Our greatest strength is in our genuine desire to live together, for convivialité rather than mere co-existence, founded on an acceptance of each other’s (different) humanity. Maybe it is easily said by someone who has not lived through a civil war, and has not directly suffered the hurt of terrorism. But I don’t see another way, for all of us.

1 comment on “The Terrorists Won’t Win: What Does This Mean?

  1. Yesterday was Al Qaida, today is Daesh and tomorrow will be something else. My point is to elemenate the terrorisem for good, we must seriously dig down to find which country is behind the spreading of this evil ideology and neutralize it regardless our economical ties with such country. Otherwise tomorrow the terrorist groups will have a new name but they will be more brutal

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About Hugo Shorter

Hugo Shorter was appointed Her Majesty's Ambassador to Lebanon in September 2015. He presented his credentials on 16 November 2016 following the election of Lebanese President General Michel Aoun. This…

Hugo Shorter was appointed Her Majesty's Ambassador to Lebanon in September 2015. He presented his credentials on 16 November 2016 following the election of Lebanese President General Michel Aoun.
This is his first Ambassadorial position coming straight from personally advising the Foreign Secretary on a wide range of Foreign Policy priorities as Head of External Affairs for Europe Directorate. In this role he has accompanied the Foreign Secretary on a monthly basis to the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU, helping negotiate EU foreign policy decisions in areas such as crisis management, sanctions and military operations. He has also co-ordinated the UK’s foreign policy work on G7/8, including during the UK G8 presidency in 2013 and the G8 Summit at Lough Erne. This work comes after an early-career focus on defence, security and trade policy, and successful postings as Minister Counsellor for Europe and Global Issues, Paris and Deputy Head of Mission, Brasilia.

Hugo Shorter, like many Lebanese, has a special connection to Brazil, having grown up there and attended school in Rio de Janeiro, before taking degrees at Oxford University and the École Nationale d’Administration.

He arrives in Lebanon with his wife Laura and three children.