Tom Fletcher

Tom Fletcher

Former British Ambassador to Lebanon

Part of UK in Lebanon

3rd September 2014 Beirut, Lebanon

Wisdom Amid Adversity?: NATO Comes to Wales

With a formidable to-do list for the world’s leaders, the 2014 NATO Summit takes place in Wales on 4/5 September. This will be the largest ever gathering of international leaders in Britain. In preparation, some diplomats have even been learning Welsh (Matthew Barzun clip).

Having been to a few, I’ve sometimes been sceptical about the value of summits in the 21st century.

But this one is different. People speak too often of wake up calls. But we can’t afford to sleepwalk through events in the Middle East and Ukraine. The world beyond our borders is becoming more uncertain and threatening. History is not gliding gently towards a liberal utopia. Technological advance is not cost-free. The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it will not get there if we sit on our hands.

That’s why the NATO summit will focus on the quantity and quality of our defence spending. We need to be ready for a less stable world of failed states, regional conflicts and terrorism. NATO must show that it can back up those who share our commitment to freedom, democracy and diversity.

Many conversations in Wales will be about the growing threat from the self proclaimed ‘Islamic State’. These bandits are neither Islamic, nor a state. But they have got the world’s attention through extremist shock tactics and savvy use of digital media. They have also shown, like Ebola with guns, that their poisonous message can spread fast. Last week, I met the main Christian leaders from Lebanon, Iraq and Syria and heard chilling accounts of persecution and intimidation.

The NATO Summit theme captures the current sense of global uncertainty – ‘Building Stability in an Unpredictable World’.

That could be Lebanon’s motto. Lebanon is the most diverse country within reach of (and currently under attack from) ‘Islamic State’. So I hope that the international community will prioritise urgent delivery of support to the Lebanese Army. For our part, we are expanding our support to the army in the areas most at risk. Many of the soldiers facing extremists are trained by the UK, stay in touch on UK-provided radios, wear UK-provided body armour, and move around in UK-provided Land Rovers.

This is not a humanitarian summit, but I hope too that NATO leaders will also remind each other of their obligations to the most vulnerable victims of conflict. In responding to the challenges of this region, military solutions alone will fail, badly. Lebanon now has almost twice as many Syrian refugees as any other country, and the crisis is felt in every town and village. UN and World Bank programmes need urgent funding.

I hope too that in their discussions of the Middle East, NATO’s leaders will agree to press regional partners on the need for a more mature and pragmatic discussion with each other. ‘Islamic State’ should focus the minds of regional giants on common threats, and the dangers of disunity, sectarianism and polarisation.  Showing a collective commitment to Lebanon’s stability is a test for whether they will prove able to find pragmatic solutions to even tougher regional challenges.

Diplomacy at its most basic form is about protecting coexistence. That takes courage.

That coexistence is under threat from an Unislamic non-state. The NATO summit is an opportunity to prove that we have as much resolve in defending our values as they do in imposing theirs. As the Welsh put it, Adfyd a ddwg wybodaeth, a gwybodaeth ddoethineb. Adversity is the mother of wisdom. It must also be the mother of action.

You can track the summit on #NATOSummitUK and @NATOWales, learn more about Wales, or more about the British people’s support to Lebanon’s stability.

2 comments on “Wisdom Amid Adversity?: NATO Comes to Wales

  1. It’s interesting how you agree, that Islamic State is not a state, though they are certainly Muslims, in the main. I have asked the government on more than one occasion why they employed Muezzim Begg to enter Syria and finance the Syrian Brotherhood to overthrow the legitimate regime there. I’m still waiting for a reasoned reply by the way.
    Syria was the most democratic country I’d ever visited, with its eclectic population and its developed social welfare programme.
    Unfortunately the above model has never suited Britain as it is intent on promoting the ”free market” and has been since the 1600s.
    As for Mr. Begg he was released for a second time as Mr Fletcher wandered around Lebanon, criticising the domestic slavery programme, which is prevalent there. Both these happenings are anomolous.
    I’ve just finished listening to a Radio 4 programme about domestic slaves in Britain and needless to say they are employed by Gulf citizens, a huge friend of Britain (or controlled by Britain) and supporters of the massive capital programme instigated and furthered by ‘The Future Movement’ in Lebanon.
    Much was made of the death of billionaire Rakik Hariri, in 2005, founder of said movement and the epitome of democracy or alternatively the man, who avoided the civil war and sat on the sidelines in Saudi accumulating billions in readiness for his return to Lebanon.
    Anyway it back fired on him and just as well.
    It really does annoy me, that you use my country to promote NATO the most murderous force ever invented.
    As for the Syrian mercenary forces, I ask again why was Mr. Begg sent to Syria to create havoc?

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About Tom Fletcher

Tom Fletcher was appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Lebanese Republic in August 2011. Tom was born in Kent, and studied at Harvey Grammar School (Folkestone) and Oxford University (Hertford…

Tom Fletcher was appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Lebanese Republic in August 2011.

Tom was born in Kent, and studied at Harvey Grammar School (Folkestone) and Oxford University (Hertford College), graduating with a First class degree in Modern History. He has an MA in Modern History, and is a Senior Associate Member of St Anthony’s College for International Studies, Oxford.

He is married to Louise Fletcher and they have two sons, Charles (born 2006) and Theodor (born 2011). Tom enjoys political history, cricket (Strollers CC), and mountains, and is the co-founder of 2020 (a progressive think tank).

Tom was awarded the Companion of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 2011 New Year’s Honours, for services to the Prime Minister.