Beirutopia

This post is also available in: Arabic

Diplomats hate making predictions. Churchill once said that you could ignore every other page of Foreign Office advice, because it tended to be in the form of ‘on the one hand’ and ‘on the other hand’. The files are full of pre-election telegrams that hedge their bets.

There are good reasons for this. We don’t like being wrong. And the more we study international politics, the more we realise how unpredictable it all is.

So this blogpost is no crystal ball. But – amid the short term pessimism – many people have been talking to me about the future of Lebanon. So I wondered what my successor would write in his report following the 100th anniversary celebrations in Lebanon in 2020. Here is one of several possible versions.

“Dear Foreign Secretary,

I represented you at today’s centenary celebrations in Beirut.

There were many international leaders present. Lebanon’s new wealth, the result of huge amounts of offshore gas, is attracting great interest. The Eurozone President commented to me that Lebanon was now Singapore with more skiing, or Qatar with more culture.

The highlight of the celebration was the participation of so many talented poets, musicians and film makers. Since the end of the Syrian occupation, Lebanon has re-emerged as the epicentre of the Arab Cultural Renaissance, as you know from the high numbers of film and music downloads in the UK.

The newly elected Syrian President was guest of honour. The Treaty of Recognition and Cooperation signed between Syria and Lebanon in 2014 established an equal relationship. The border was demarcated, and Lebanese businesses and community leaders of course played a key role in the reconstruction of Syria following the terrible 2011-13 civil war.

I spoke to many MPs in the margins. Most are now under the age of 40, the post civil war generation. Many returned from ex-pat jobs overseas to help lead the country. Where once we spoke of a Brain Drain, we now see a Brain Gain. New technology has allowed the Lebanese diaspora to create one of the world’s most dynamic global business networks, with Beirut as the hub between Europe and Asia. In her speech, the President (one of the first citizens to have a civil marriage with a partner from another confession) said that as global power shifts South and East, we are on the cusp of a new Levantine age.

The 2014 Beirut Accord still seems to be working well. Of course, Lebanon wouldn’t be Lebanon without some animated debate over political representation. But most parties feel their interests are safeguarded. For me, the key moment was the rebuttal by Lebanon’s leaders of international offers to oversee the ‘reset’ of Lebanon’s constitutional settlement. By insisting that this should be a Lebanese-led process, they ended the vicious cycle of external meddling and patronage. For the first time, the constitutional settlement is truly Lebanese.

There was little political debate at the ceremony itself, though politics is as lively as ever. The key dividing line is over what to do with the income from gas. The One Lebanon (centre left) party want to give each Lebanese citizen a dividend. The One Nation (centre right) party want to retain a sovereign wealth fund. I bumped into two older MPs, the last to still use the labels March 8 and March 14. The only party to retain a sectarian basis lost its last seat at the 2017 elections, though the Senate continues to act as the safeguard for cross-confessional interests.

Alphabetical protocol meant that the Ambassadors of Israel and Iran were sat near to Great Britain, both in animated conversation. The 2015 peace agreement between Israel and Lebanon has of course been a key part of the regional gas boom. Borders were settled in the South, and both sides pledged no further aggression. The establishment of Palestine the same year, following intense US-led engagement, meant the return of many Palestinian refugees from Lebanon. Western tourists now visit Israel, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon on the same trip, and many Lebanese Christian and Muslim pilgrims from Lebanon visited Jerusalem last year.

Lebanon’s kaleidoscope nation was out in force, a vivid reminder of the different groups who have made this land their home over the centuries. Having paid the price in the past for sectarian division, Lebanon is now a talisman for coexistence, and delegations regularly visit from countries in conflict to study the lessons. Among the leaders present, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah confirmed that his party remain strongly committed to the reform process and – under their 2014 charter – renounce violence and put Lebanon’s interests before those of any external country. As in Northern Ireland, it is remarkable to see how far a number of former militias have come, committing to a genuinely national project. They have more political power as a result. The National Guard, including many former resistance fighters, marched proudly alongside the rest of the Lebanese army, many of whom have now returned from peacekeeping missions on several continents.

I arrived at the ceremony on the new citytrain, one of the flagship projects of Lebanon 2020, a private sector driven modernisation project. Beirut now has the world’s first car-free city centre, and oil and gas revenues have funded the repair of the National Grid, leaving generators a distant memory. The effort to discover and renovate ancient ruins remains at the heart of the remarkable tourist boom of recent years. Beirut is now the top citybreak destination for Brits, and many will I’m sure join me in Sky Bar tonight to continue the celebration.

Lebanon at 100 is an extraordinary, talented, resilient, hopeful, diverse, beautiful and enchanting place. I look forward to the next Royal visit.

Yours, HM Ambassdor Beirut

PS, it was a pleasure to see my predecessor Tom Fletcher win the 100m and 200m at this year’s Olympics.”

A fantasy? Naive? It depends on you. Tell us what you think. #Leb2020

326 Responses

  1. Joseph Eid says:

    Dear Mr Fletcher,
    Let me just start by saying as a British Lebanese, it is my utmost pleasure to have you as our Ambassador. Wow what an article what can I say, you brought tears to my eyes reading it. You remind me of the saying “I Dream of a country” or John lennons song “IMAGINE”. For now I have to say what Gebran Khalil Gebran once said “You have your Lebanon and I have mine”.

  2. Poppy Jr says:

    Very Optimistic because Lebanon reflects the state of the entire world. If all religions and ideologies can put their differences aside in Lebanon that means such peace and harmony can be attained globally.

    As a Lebanese who knows very well his country and the mentalities of Lebanese citizen, I can assure you this scene will not be seen unless a new miracle takes place. but who said miracles are impossible, they are possible if there is honesty and good will to believe in them when they appear.

    Dear Ambassador, If you are ready to help bringing such miracle not only to Lebanon but also to Northern Ireland and the entire planet, then the next time you are in the UK, hopefully we can meet for a chat and I will hand you a book which describes how to realise the miracle we are all looking for.

  3. Imad Rasamny says:

    Very nice , Excellency !!!! But i think “The Olympics” ..is the most realistic bit.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      You haven’t seen me running …

      • Rena says:

        Woaw! Beirut car free?!?! What a fantasy!!! I wish we can start working on such projects and forget allll abt politics and their stupid ramblings and just be proactive for our community…..wow this post makes us remain hopeful……

  4. Grace Menassa says:

    His excellency…
    Very well said… Beirutopia sums it all… This is the Lebanon we dream of, we long for and we hope for !!!
    Naive ? Maybe… But it doesn’t hurt to dream, to have faith or to start working on making it happen… Every great achievement started actually with a dream… A dream that wasn’t forgotten at sunrise !!!!

    Thank you for helping us keep faith in a Country who’s leaders unfortunatly have turned their backs on us and forgot that they are there to serve …

    With all my respect

    Grace
    A simple citizen who is still struggling to stay in Leb.
    But not sure for how long I can keep dreaming !!!

  5. Living in Beirut? Imagine like living near a volcano, or on the fault lines where earthquakes are recurring, or in some seashore shantytown. Every other year, you’d have 10 to 15 thousand people dying… The difference is that Beirut’s fate is not a matter of elements of nature. It’s man made. But perhaps these men are behaving without considering the implications of their actions, maybe that makes them as senseless as the elements of nature. So you’d better live with it unless aunt Sumayya from abroad sends you an invitation. Patriotism only gets you so far.
    Versus is a separation between two entities, often if not always, antagonistic. The Sharks and the Jets, the Caputlets and the Montagnes, the north and the south, the good and the evil. But is there not a meeting point for antagonistic entities, for contradictions? And what if the reference point or axis of classification was inverted, does not this mean that what was north is now south and vice versa, what was good is now evil and the opposite true?
    Finally, someone had understood that the meeting place was more important than what it was meant to separate. Versus no more. Welcome to contradiction. Welcome to a city, much like snake, having to shed its skin periodically in order to survive. Welcome, you are entering Beirut.
    Beirut, the space between the Yin and the Yang.
    See you in 2020!

  6. Jimmy says:

    A fantasy indeed. Will Israel recognize a Palestinian country and accept the return of the refugees ? I highly doubt it. That is the origin of the problems in the ME , your excellency , that is…
    Enough dreaming , peace isn’t only an imaginary thing.

    J.K.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      We’ll see. A two state solution is the only way of stopping the vicious cycle – international community needs to deliver on it.

      • astrogirl says:

        I was very touched by your post, Mr Ambassador.
        All the more touched because I have an aversion towards diplomats because of all the lies they are used to say, behind an innocent smile. Especially that your country has not really promoted peace in our region, far from that, the origin of all the plagues we have, i.e the creation if Israel, is because of your country and the infamous Lord Balfour.

        So perhaps today, is a chance to compensate, somehow, and broaden your vision. Maybe, as an humanist, in love with my country, (these are some of the qualities I read behind your lines) you could contribute to that, Mr Ambassador.

        That is to say that I do not agree a two-state solution would be “the only way of stopping the vicious cycle”, as you say. Actually, I think that having this rigid idea is one of the reason why middle east is in a deadlock. So maybe, you could suggest that your country and the international community look at alternative solutions to this conflict. Have you read Edward Said?

        Regarding your great post:
        Allow me to add:
        – what about renewable energy? We have plenty of sun, and some wind too.
        – we could take advantage of water, too. Lebanon could be selling mineral water from the springs of our beautiful mountains.
        – We have reestablished some of the craftworks that made the Phenicians prosperous : purple dye, blown glass, potery.. to name only a few.

        Best Regards
        and good luck

  7. robert says:

    That article was a pleasure to read. It is really a beautiful world that i hope it will become true! And the ending is hilarious, i hope sir Tom Fletcher win the olympics. Just wondering, when the race will happen ?

  8. Abir Ward says:

    This is more than hopeful. This is nauseatingly hopeful. This is almost a duet between Fairuz and Pitbull, though I am someone who is working hard, everyday, to make sure we get to the Lebanon you are describing. I’ve lost all hope though after having lived here for 7 years and tried hard. This place is beyond repair because the younger generation is more corrupt than that which witnessed the war.
    .

  9. Mounir says:

    Mr. Ambassador, looks like you believe in Lebanon , may be much more than many of his citizens…

  10. Sabine says:

    We certainly hope that is the future of Lebanon … But with all the foreign counties east and west trying to settle their issues at the Lebanon expense I doubt this would come true … In fact I would be scared of more political interference to see who gets the biggest share of the oil like it happens in all the Middle East and other war torn countries .

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks. I agree oil could be a curse, not a blessing. That’s why you need maximum civilian oversight. I’ll be doing some speeches on this in coming months.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks Sabine. It is right to steel oursleves to cope with shocks to stability. But Lebanon also faces an opportunity, for the first time in a generation, to settle its issues without foreign interference. Looking to outsiders for the answers is a habit we all need to break.

  11. Imad Sleilaty says:

    one of the best article i have ever read full of hope thank you for thinking in a positive way about Lebanon, hope our politicians read this ;)

  12. Patricia s says:

    Everybody’s calling it a ‘Dream’ because we are living in a nightmare…
    But what if this ‘Dream’ was the the fruit of all what we wouldn’t have done throughout the years that have passed? What if Tom Fletcher was pointing on the things we missed and the blindness that was in everybody’s eyes? Maybe it shouldn’t be as perfect as cited in tom’s scenario but at least half way through.. Elections after elections nothing is progressing in my country nit even the basics.. Maybe this is a call to all of us to wake up and realize that we need a change and this change will never be done without consistency and peace if mind..
    When we want to achieve at our best we should put in front of us the perfect scene and this is what the article is all about! Very inspiring! Thank you!!

  13. Patricia.S. says:

    Everybody’s calling it a ‘Dream’ because we are living in a nightmare…
    But what if this ‘Dream’ was the the fruit of all what we wouldn’t have done throughout the years that have passed? What if Tom Fletcher was pointing on the things we missed and the blindness that was in everybody’s eyes? Maybe it shouldn’t be as perfect as cited in tom’s scenario but at least half way through.. Elections after elections nothing is progressing in my country not even the basics.. Maybe this is a call to all of us to wake up and realize that we need a change and this change will never be done without consistency and peace of mind..
    When we want to achieve at our best we should put in front of us the perfect scene and this is what the article is all about! Very inspiring! Thank you Tom!

  14. Hanz says:

    You have lived most of your life in the UK. As far as you can remember, have you witnessed any power shortage? or has your electricity shut down in your home because you put on the kettle and exceeded your amperage? Have you ever witnessed such appalling corruption in people, police, schools, government etc? Have you ever witnessed such blatant racism against colored people, mixed Lebanese and domestic workers? (CNN ran a story on racism in Lebanon a few days ago).

    My point is, the infrastructure of this country is so appalling that it will need years and years to fix; people’s attitudes need to change. Most Lebanese still follow various political parties that do nothing for them; they complain and then vote them in again. It’s a real mess, I wonder how all this will change in 2020.

    About a Palestinian state, well its been 50 years and trying, it will be a miracle if that happens; does Israel really want peace?

    Having said that, I wish your dream comes true.. and hope you win the race at the Olympics!

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks Hanz. Actually, I’ve lived much of my life in the Middle East and Africa, so I have experienced many of the issues you mention. I’ve also seen that the challenges are not always as insurmountable as they appear.

  15. Derek Anthony Issacs says:

    From a non Lebanese living this wonderful country for 11 years.

    What a wonderful dream.

    And you know what they all say to make one’s dream come true? Go for it.

    Derek Anthony

  16. Lina Saad says:

    Dear Ambassador,
    I believe you have earned the Lebanese citizenship big time… Your passion for our country is very much glowing from between your lines..it’s passion with a plan..I propose granting you the citizenship(though not much of a temtping offer) and maybe you can run this country for a while putting it on the right track for 2020 centenary celebrations and generations to come…or else it would be me, myself, and millions of other lebanese expats watching this celebration on TV from some other capital in grieve…

  17. Gina says:

    Your post reminded me of M. L. King’s ‘ I had a dream…’ , and it surely gave me a little bit of hope …. Maybe I should start dreaming again :) thank you :)

  18. Patricia says:

    Everybody’s calling it a ‘Dream’ because we are living in a nightmare…
    But what if this ‘Dream’ was the the fruit of all what we wouldn’t have done throughout the years that have passed? What if Tom Fletcher was pointing on the things we missed and the blindness that was in everybody’s eyes? Maybe it shouldn’t be as perfect as cited in tom’s scenario but at least half way through.. Elections after elections nothing is progressing in my country nit even the basics.. Maybe this is a call to all of us to wake up and realize that we need a change and this change will never be done without consistency and peace if mind..
    When we want to achieve at our best we should put in front of us the perfect scene and this is what the article is all about! Very inspiring! Thank you!!

  19. Gina says:

    Your post reminded me of M.L. King’s ” I had a dream…” and just maybe gave me a little a bit of hope again. Thank you :)

  20. Ali says:

    How can a Lebanese living in London help?

  21. Habib Wehbe says:

    Very touching words ….and thank you for still having some faith in our beloved country. Most of us have lost it!

    Reading your article brought tears to my eyes because you reminded me what Lebanon and the Lebanese are all about!

    Hope one day I’ll get the chance to meet you so I can thank you in person!

    Habib Wehbe

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks Habib, for such a kind response. Look forward to meeting. Any relation to Haifa?!

        • TAnia says:

          I think the main problem is to do build sustainable institutions, and constructing such institutions incur high costs that noone is willing to pay. If we recall the british rule of law introduced in the usa, australia, nz! Look where they are today
          France should ve invested more in institutions back then ;)
          I am not puting the blame on anybody but history does matter and we have lots of evidence of the long run impacta of institutions on performance
          Lebanon could be a special case, but resilient rule of law cannot but inhibit any sort of racism or discrimination

          • Tom Fletcher says:

            Thanks Tania, I’m going to dodge the invitation to compare UK and French rule of law. But you are dead right on institutions. Important to build the infrastructure of the state. Only then can it deliver essential services for citizens in a way that replaces the traditional structures.

  22. Rolfen says:

    “The Eurozone President commented to me that Lebanon was now Singapore with more skiing, or Qatar with more culture.”
    I’m not sure what would be better, what we have now, or another Singapore or Quatar.

    Lebanon is a nice country, make no mistake, but it is plagued with scum politicians. Something that we see in every country, but it is actually much worse in Lebanon, and the descendants are waiting in the “margins” as you said. Like their father before them, and their father before them. It’s been going on for generations.

    Yes, lots of great things come out of lebanon, and expats coming back can be a good thing, but make no mistake, The cliché of the “new generation” having lived abroad has been used and recycled ad-nauseatum. Look no farther from our great neighbour, Syria, and Bashar… do you guys really have such a short memory?

    Truth is, Lebanon has a lot of talent, but the market is small, the economy slumbering, and any little vigor and compeition that arises in promising sectors is promptly obnubilated by the ruling cartels which are backed by billions of dollars and have their arms reaching deep into the state.

    And at a lower level, people die from criminal negligence and have no realistic legal recourse, due to corruption and/or comatose archaic justice system. Areas are out of reach of the police. The palestian camps are a haven for criminals. Hezbollah are a different state, and the police or army need their approval to operate in a “Hezbollah area”, and police or army need their permission to operate their or risk being shot at.

    It’s no wonder you need a visa for almost any country in the world when you only have a Lebanese passport.

    Lebanon is a heaven for criminals, and I wonder where you got your inspiration.

    Sorry, Lebanon is in a sorry state, if you look at it from that perspective, and “Europeans”, like you, with their attitude of knowing better and bringing good stuff, are obliviously cheering and clapping. Their “system” is not better than any other system, but I’d expect them to know better than judge things by their apparence.

    I have long since been disillusioned and don’t expect to change much with such a text of mine, or make many followers, but part of me still tells me that there is sense and reason in others, so I have to keep writing.

    And even if you were right, and if Beirut was a new Singapore or Quatar in the making, this might be pretty bad news. Let’s not aim too far, let’s start by aiming for a “new Jordan” or a “new Turkey” or “Greece” for a start, and let’s hope that Lebanon retains it’s soul.

    Consider this to be on behalf of a big group of Lebanese. I can’t count how many of my friends would agree with that.

    Get real. This is not a case for constly bad-mouthing a country that’s not so bad after all, but to show some respect by looking at real problems and harshipt that it’s people are suffering from, and to acknowledge these.

    And as an ambassador, frankly, you don’t hold the candle very high.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Well Rolf, I’m glad you have had a chance to re-read the post, and to see that I’m only presenting one possible scenario. There are many more, and the answers lie with the Lebanese people, not with us outsiders. I make no apologies for refusing to be fatalist.

      By the way, I agree with you passionately that Lebanon must not lose its soul.

      For the rest, I think you’re wrong that I’m coming at this thinking I know best. I have never talked Lebanon down – ask anyone who has been to one of my speeches. And I reject the allegation that we don’t take seriously the hardships faced by people here. Have a look at some of my earlier blogposts for more on all of these themes.

      Keep the comments coming. I’m all up for a bit of a debate, and one of Lebanon’s greatest strengths is its freedom of speech, even if you use yours to talk down my candle holding skills…

  23. Rolfen says:

    PS: I see the title is “Beirutopia”… and well I should have been more careful, your text is kinda ambguous.
    So anyway, sir, feel free to edit out the last sentence of my previous “Comment”, or any insulting parts if you prefer to publish it.
    I get all worked up about that topic, and make it personal, because once you live long enough in Lebanon, as a Lebanese, you end up paying with your blood, like the 100 000 persons who paid for their blood during the Lebanese civil war, and the same big heads are in power right now.

  24. Assaad Raphael says:

    Hi Tom,

    we can practice for the Olympics and hope for the best for the rest,
    private initiative is king,we master those skills until we can prove ourselves
    in defining our country’s destiny.
    i don’t think that your description is far fetched, it will only take a little effort
    and goodwill,the rest is available.

  25. Dima says:

    Will the UK let it be, the way you imagine it, Sir Ambassador?
    For the past 200 years, it has been intriguing and promoting the opposite, i.e. false promises, wars, injustice and intolerance…
    Instead of studying international politics, maybe the UK ought to be reviewing parts of its “glorious” history concerning the ME…

    Anyway, thanks for the entertaining wishful thinking.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Dima, I think you overstate our ability to influence events, and our perfidiousness. There is plenty in our history in the Middle East to question, but please judge us on what we’re trying to do now.

      • Dima says:

        What is the UK trying to do now, Mr. Ambassador? Can you tell us more about it? It has so far been a proxy for the US in ME politics.
        We have seen Tony Blair’s actions and we know UK’s interest in Lebanon’s gas and oil, as well as the stakes of its global oil companies… I don’t want to seem like Thomas, but I need to put my finger in and see, before trusting…
        And BTW, you did a great publicity for the Sky Bar there. I’m sure the whole embassy would get a free drink there soon ;-)
        Enjoy it.

        • Tom Fletcher says:

          Thanks Dima, have a look at http://www.ukinlebanon.fco.gov.uk for more on what we’re trying to do. Our embassy effort is centred on Lebanese stability. Not just because its a good thing in itself, but because its also in our interests. To support stability, we have programmes to help train the army/police, back reform, support the political process and improve the commercial relationship (including, as you say, oil and gas).

          And yes, I think some of the team do get to Sky Bar very occasionally.

          • Dima says:

            Thanks for the reply Mr. Ambassador. I’ll look into the site.
            Would the UK sell or maybe give (which is less likely) some war planes to the Leb army, or at least some anti war planes weapons, to defend its country from neighbouring agressions?
            When this will happen, I must say I’ll start believing that the UK trusts the Leb army and is starting to become a little fair, then I’ll start trusting the UK. Till then,…
            Would it, along with the other powerful “democracies” allow a strong, honest and bright true patriot to get to the top and start reversing things and annihilate corruption and corruptors?
            I personally doubt.
            Our country was designed as a ‘failed state’ by and for the powerful “democracies” to be able to play around in and with them according to their interests, without having a direct colonial rule, which morally makes them non-“democratic” (to their own public opinions first) and stains their image…

            Oh, and maybe some of the UK embassy staff ought to spend some time with people in Lebanon such as those that are unable to enter a hospital and have a decent treatment, those who have no place to stay or school to go to, those who are represented by no one, and those that make it on their own with great difficulty or even dishonesty; and not only with the “fils à papa” or mafiosi and other sociopoliticoeconomical lobby members that spend their nights at the SB, and constitute a very small percentage of the population…
            It would be much interesting and enlighting to take a look at the whole wide spectrum of the exploded Lebanese society. But I understand that one should not mix business and pleasure (or work and leasure, put it as you wish). Kind regards.

          • Tom Fletcher says:

            Thanks Dima. Most of our support to the military is in the form of training. Watch this space for more on that this week. The army are working on an important capability plan, which will help donors identify where bestto support.
            I can promise you that the UK has no problem at all with honest patriots getting to the top.
            Finally, yes, I agree that it is important to get out of the bubble. Our team try to do this as much as possible.

  26. Elias says:

    Excellent!

  27. Marc Zirka says:

    M. Ambassador,

    First let me congratulate on your vision and your ability to describe our potential future in such a beautiful picture. I think it is the vision of every Lebanese who is not doomed to be a servant to external governments.

    I was able to see the train that you described, I was able for once to notice the silence of the generators, because we have electricity in 2020. It is a very nice picture and a very sad one at the same time. How did we manage not to have a train and not to have electricity so far, where Lebanon was one of the most flourishing countries in the region in 1950’s, 1960’s and early 1970’s, at least this is what our grandparents and parents told us.

    The pearl of the Middle-East, the Switzerland of the Middle-East…. Our beloved, and adored leaders, and neighbours too, were so talented in destroying this. What a shame!

    It might be pure luck or the Gods (given we have several dominant religions in Lebanon) played a great role for your esteemed government to have you stationed in Beirut. You are still young, so please ask them to renew your assignment until 2020. We need more of you, we want to witness what you described and celebrate together at Skybar in 2020! (PS to Skybar: Please don’t despair, don’t go bankrupt until 2020, i am already booking a table for around 4 million Lebanese and at least 1 British to celebrate. If the Lebanese diaspora will join us, then please make sure that you have a place for an additional 15 million)

    We need more people like you. Locals or Diplomats, it doesn’t matter as long as all of them are here to serve the interests of our Lebanon.

    Thank you for believing in our Lebanon, thank you for believing in the young generation.

    Please write more, please talk more, be the “talk of the town” (by the way your appearance on MTV few months ago on that show was excellent)

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      That’s very kind indeed Marc. See you in Sky Bar, hopefully before 2020. I’m keen to get back on Talk of the Town, but need to work on my Arabic first.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks Marc, much appreciated. Do join in this debate on Twitter, on the Leb2020 hashtag. I loved doing Talk of the Town, but want to work on my Arabic before my next grilling …

  28. Mohammed Ajouz - American-Lebanese says:

    When the great Martin Luther Kings gave his famous speech: I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed … there was much skepticism that his dream will ever come true.

    Problem today – and very understandably so – many Lebanese have given up hope.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks Mohammed, I have the text of that amazing speech on my wall. It is understandable that many Lebanese feel frustrated at the scale of the challenge. But have a look at my earlier blog on ten questions for Leb2020. I’ve tried to suggest ways that you can turn disadvantages (location, brain drain, sectarianism) into advantages (location, powerful diaspora, diversity). I’m sure that there were many people at MLK’s speech who never imagined they would see a black President in their lifetime. But enough people did.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks Mohammed, I have the text of that amazing speech on my wall. It is understandable that many Lebanese feel frustrated at the scale of the challenge. But have a look at my earlier blog on ten questions for Leb2020. I’ve tried to suggest ways that you can turn disadvantages (location, brain drain, sectarianism) into advantages (location, powerful diaspora, diversity). I’m sure that there were many people at MLK’s speech who never believed they would see a black President in their lifetime. But enough people did.

  29. Darine El Hage says:

    A glance of positivism is always comforting. i could not help but smile… our negativity is nothing but a result of how deeply we cherish this country and how much we are eager for a change. yes it is tiring and yes it is draining to invest efforts in a process of change, but almost 70 years ago nobody could have imagined Europe would end its war. and who knows, maybe it s another 70 years for us.
    optimism aside, hopefully we can keep on trying so we can seize the right momentum.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks Darine. Yes, history has a way of proving wrong people who say that something cannot be done, or that change will never be delivered. The European project is not always perfect, but it has achieved much more than many expected.

  30. Naji Assi says:

    The grid! We had forgot about it. A few years ago i took my architecture students on the path of the old hijaz track. From beirut to rayyak then damascus and amman after having spent one night in charming bosra.
    Past also becomes utopia. Welcome and good luck.

  31. Georges says:

    Mr. Ambassador,

    I don’t think it is naive or a fantasy to have this vision of Lebanon in 2020, and I do want to stay out of politics and be as objective as possible in this reply, but the truth is, there is only one true reformist group working for the interest of the country and ALL the people of this country even though half of the country does not want to believe this fact despite of all given proofs.

    It is our history that is hurting us today, and the fact that we cannot overcome what history has done to each group. Blocking any reformist initiative in Lebanon of the 2010s is never being done for the sake of the country, or the people, or the economy or the budget, but only done in the name of revenge and spite – A simple refusal to give credit to the political opponent.

    Now since you are talking about utopias, if my idea of a utopia can take effect and this party (the one whose main slogan is reform) is in complete charge of all political and governance matters starting 2013 without any noisy and destructive interference (constructive interference is always welcome), Lebanon will reach this “possible version” of yours and hopefully before 2020.

    I hope this reply doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks George. I agree with you that reform is too often blocked, or killed with kindness. But I disagree that one party or group has all the answers, or that one party or group is responsible for all the problems. It is only going to work out if you are able to forge issue-based alliances across parties and groups, and develop a truly Lebanese vision.

  32. Michele Bibi says:

    Thank you Mr Ambassador,
    Such a great article, full of hope and optimism. It brings some fresh air to our bitter hearts, we, lebanese citizens.
    Thank you again.

  33. Mouna Bassili Sehnaoui says:

    A dream? No….why not an AIM…if all Lebanese put their personal
    (and often non Lebanese) interets aside and work together to build a country where accountability has an important place, where political power ceases to be a way to riches, where we make plans and work towards achieving them instead of improvising, where corruption and injustice have no more place, where importance is given to the so many creative people in this country (from all fields)…then this country, I so love, will indeed be strong and provide hope for future generations. For me this is the only choice possible for our survival.
    As we have proven to be survivors….

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Beautifully put Mouna. On accountability, it is well worth keeping an eye on positive initiatives such as Publish What You Pay, EITI, and ipaidabribe.com. All have been shown to help elsewhere.

      I hope that the more Lebanon survives shocks, the more resilient it gets.

      • Mouna Bassili Sehnaoui says:

        Thank you! I forgot to add, in my hurry to comment, that it is ESSENTIAL to protect the beautiful and so generous Nature that we were blessed with. More awarness of the extreme importance of protecting an environment is also a must for an idylic future. Pollution could mean the end of all of us regardless of political or other affiliations…food for thought? Mouna Bassili Sehnaoui

  34. Raya Jallad Sadi says:

    Mona Bassili Sehnaoui has it exactly right . May I just add that the Lebanese should go back to thinking of Lebanon as a whole, and not as different regions (the North , the South , and the Bekaa ) on one hand , and the centre of Beirut with its Sky Bar , Zaytouna Bay,and the Souks, on the other .
    By the way I’m Beiruti born and bred .

  35. jik says:

    “Some innocent people didn’t know that something was impossible to be done….so they did it..!!”
    Let’s all be innocent..and turn this Beirutopia into a reality..
    Thank you Tom for drafting a wonderful roadmap for the future. We’ve been living on the dream of what Beirut and Lebanon used to be: the Paris of the Middle East..the Switzerland of the Middle East..!!
    No one is seriously working on influencing our future…it took a Mr Sykes to lead to 1920…now Mr Fletcher is guiding us toward 2020..you might still need a French guy with you..!!
    Well thought..Bravo

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Ha. We do work very closely with our French colleagues, and the rest of the EU. But I don’t think we need another Sykes/Picot. The architects of Lebanon 2020 will have Lebanese names.

  36. Joseph Sidaoui says:

    Amazing article.
    This is what the majority of Lebanese hope for.
    We are fortunate to have you as an ambassador.

    Thank you
    Joseph

  37. Karim Nader says:

    Thank you Tom for bringing such beautiful hopes. The most heartbreaking part is that it is utterly possible. Let us make it happen.

  38. Camille says:

    Mr. Ambassador, here’s slightly different version of your Beirutopia: http://goo.gl/E9pn9

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thank you Camille, that’s a striking counter-argument. I suspect many will agree with you about the resilience of some of the obstacles to positive change. But I think it will become harder for entrenched interests to perpetuate some of the current forms of mismanagement. The diaspora gives Lebanon an extraordinary global network, not just a brain drain. I’ll meet you in 2020, hopefully in Beirut, and we can swap notes …

  39. Fuad SASSO says:

    hahaha what a joke made me laugh for a full half hour

  40. Claude Tarazi Elkoury says:

    Hi Tom,
    Since this morning, i am “flying high high in the sky ” thanks to your Beirutopia ! The one who waited 30 years can still wait another decade ….
    Gebran Khalil Gebran was very right when he said : “if Lebanon wasn’t my country I would have choosen it to be “.
    Hope your dream comes true .

  41. T says:

    His Execellency

    The article is promising, dreamful and full of positive vibes. This what has been pushing us to survive for the past 30 yrs. Hopes and a dream of a better country. I as a lebanese french resident would gladly like to be part of the 2020 festivities. Meanwhile, leting the world leaders decide upon the fate of gas, palestine hezb ollah and all those matters, let us simple citizens educate our children on civic code of conduct, how to respect their country, the environment, the eldery, the red lights, the queues, the laws, equal opportunity, the acceptance of the different other, the loyality to country not to party… We should educate mentalities, forge them, make them based on authentic democartic roots. The children today are the future of this country, and they are the ones most likely to celebrate the 150 yrs of the formation of Lebanon.
    Cheers to a better Lebanon
    Lots of love
    T

  42. E. Hajj says:

    This is the Lebanon i love and try to explain to my kids but unfortunately it is only a dream in the songs of Feyrouz and in your lovely way to present our country. Thank you anyway…

  43. Lyna. says:

    So beautiful it gave me goose bumps and a big smile. It is a fantasy, but a very realistic one. Let’s try… let’s try…
    nb. and let’s make you an honorary citizen of Lebanon, Ambassador.

  44. Karen Ayat says:

    Mr Ambassador, great article, thank you for the beautiful escapade and thank you for sharing this dream.
    I have been giving the subject some thought as well.

    http://www.naturalgaseurope.com/lebanon-natural-gas-discovery-overview

    Thanks,
    Karen.

  45. Nadim Abdo says:

    Dear Mr. Ambassador,
    When I was living in the UK in the early nineties, I helped organize an Arab fair at Olympia and was in charge of dispatching invitations. I remember the many “Minister Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary” titles I came across… To cut the story short, I don’t know if this title issue is Arab loved in general but it sure is much acclaimed in Lebanon.
    I loved reading your article and was moved by your strong optimism.
    I share your optimism but believe that a change to the Lebanese mentality needs one generation at least. We will not rest until a change is done. A lot is needed in education and social issues, areas I am involved in as best I can.
    One last thing you can pursue, sir, and could be of great support to Lebanon and the region. Please find suitable ways to inform your country’s leaders and indeed world leaders in general, about the need to learn to listen to one another and build bridges. Things that Arabs and Israelis have in common are by far more than what divides them. I look forward to a breakthrough thanks to your efforts, and will keep an eye on Olympic titles, if any.
    Cheers

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Yes Nadim, there can be few professions with more pompous and pointless titles than diplomacy. Beneath all the fluff, it is basically about your last point – listening and building bridges. Keep up the good work.

  46. Carol Ghazal says:

    Dear Sir,
    Because I am an optimistic by nature I loved the picture you have dreamed of Lebanon. Yet I tend to think like Rolf (Rolfen) who spoke of CORRUPTION CORRUPTION CORRUPTION. I should add NO ACCOUNTABILITY and the waste of our most precious natural ressource: WATER WATER WATER. If our representatives are unable to manage a resource as simple as water how can we expect that they manage oil resources! The lebanese lower to middle income are fighting hard for a decent living and the elderly are left with no public medicare…this is the best lever for the perpetuation of the rule of mediocrity. Freedom of speech is great. But in our case I would have preferred that it be abolished to have the people push for a real revolution. Talking and talking and making speaches in talkshows have been a useless exhaust of much of the social steem. I would like to read your opinion on how the lebanese should get their act together to engage in the culture of accountability and efficient management of resources. Thank you.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks Carol. Worth looking at initiatives that have worked elsewhere, such as Transparency International, ipaidabribe.com etc. On energy resources, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative is the gold standard. If Lebanon adopts it, there is a much greater chance of fair distribution of energy resources. Worth a campaign …

  47. Majed says:

    Dear Ambassador,

    I read the article and all the comments

    very few Lebanese, if any, would dislike the Lebanon you described in this article – I would love it
    Lots of them are trying (or think they are) to help/work on, getting there
    All blame political system / political leaders.

    Political leaders are still in place because of corruption, and because they serve their followers’ interests. When there is a popular movement / upraisal, there is always division (in Lebanon); which helps the political leaders stay where they are. The people is to blame. Why? Because there is no unique view on what are Lebanon’s interests (very basic, which neighbor is ennemy, which is ally… just to start… and then we can go very far in counting the divergences between different groups)

    The first step in building our future, maybe, hopefully, the one you described, is knowing our past, understanding it, and writing it in history books.

    I am one of the new generation, 28 years old, raised in France and Lebanon. I now live and work in the UK. I studied Lebanese history in Lebanon; and it stopped in 1943. After this, it’s only what I’ve heard, seen in tv docs, read in books. As you know, versions vary a lot from a source to the other.

    Can you launch (or is there already?) a project to work on writing and agreeing on the recent history of Lebanon? I would be happy to participate. I don’t have the means to do it myself. This is the only politics backed program I would adhere to as a Lebanese citizen. Once we have that, we can start building a society, and a brighter future. I we can’t do that, we cannot be a single country.

    The second step is to teach this history. To children, and grown ups.

    Please tell me whether you agree, tell me where I’m wrong, tell me why you wouldn’t undertake this project.

    Thanks,
    and Regards

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks Majed. You’ve hit on an essential point. The lack of a shared understanding of the recent past is a definite impediment to a unified vision of the future. It is understandable given how bad the situation got, but any effort to establish common ground is very important. In the absence of a national account of the history, divisive group narratives dominate. There is an excellent NGO called Adyan, which is working now on a shared curriculum. We and others are supporting them. You should check with them how you could help. The Centre for Lebanese Studies has also been involved in pioneering work in this field. Good luck.

      • Dana Maria says:

        Regarding the comments above about the history curriculum:

        Why not be the first country in the world NOT to have one unique version of history? Why not divide our history book into several sections, and let each party write their own account of what happened. Why not let students then read all sections, open their minds, create their own opinions, be critical and analytical instead of being spoonfed one pre-digested story?

        It is common knowledge that history books are always written by the winners. Let the Lebanese History Book be a first, and set a new standard of truth for the world to follow.

        How’s that for a start towards a better 2020?

        • Dina Sarkis says:

          Great idea, we would then: have the first history book that has “the whole story”, teach learning & analytical thinking, promote acknowledgment of the “different other partner”, & for the first time unify all Lebanese “under one roof”.

        • Roula M. says:

          I also support you idea Dana!
          Too bad they don’t have the “LIKE” option on this page :(
          Couldn’t it be added?

  48. vick vanlian says:

    William Arthur Ward said “if you can imagine it,you can achieve it,if you can dream it, you can become it”.
    I believe if we all dream as one, we will achieve this great dream and make it OUR reality.

  49. Assaad G. says:

    I’ve read this article from the beginning until the end, waiting for some sort of point to rebut, refuse or resist accepting; I couldn’t, it’s exactly the approach that we as Lebanese should take, the openness and acceptance, the One Vision of nationalistic interests above all; basing ourselves upon “location, powerful diaspora, diversity” that unites us.

    As a skeptical person, reading this did re-comfort me; It gave me reassurance that the U.K. has people who are politically right and mature regarding the ME (well at least on the long run)

    I wish you a powerful political career

    Assaad G.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thank you Assaad. The UK has its own history of getting things both right and wrong in the Middle East, so we definitely can’t lecture. Best of luck to you too.

  50. Tarek says:

    Dear Mr. Ambassador,

    Thank you for this optimistic view on Lebanon. The citytrain idea though is over optimistic I believe.

    On a more serious note, as I was reading your post, I was very inclined to write another version of this report. Only my version would be covering the 2nd anniversary celebrations of Smaller Lebanon (or whatever nation setup we end up having).
    I hope I am wrong, let us wait and see.
    Goodluck with the Olympics.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks Tarek, you should certainly write it. Just as Camille (see earlier comments) wrote his rebuttal. It is important we reflect on all the possible options, positive and negative. See you on the Citytrain.

  51. Abdallah says:

    Tom, my friend emailed me your article, and I immediately shared it on my Facebook saying this: “In a few paragraphs, Tom Fletcher depicts an alternative nation where love, hope, openness and acceptance have erased conflict, pessimism, and negativity. Can we grant him citizenship please? If only to have a shot at winning the 100m and 200m Olympics”

    You rock.

    Abdallah

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks Abdallah, that is really kind. But the idea of me rocking is one that would have those who know me convulsing with derision and laughter!

  52. Nabih says:

    Dear Sir,

    Not far fetched. Considering the (small) size of our infrastructure, economic, and social problems relative to other nations – politics aside – we’d have to go for a one shot “unplug & replace” solution rather than for an “upgrade & reform” solution, all made possible by hydrocarbon-generated funding. Any CEO of a fortune-500 company would embrace the challenge, having surely had to endure more complex undertakings in his or her own courtyard. The problem, of course, is to get all of the current cast out of the ballgame or, better yet, translate your Vision to arabic and have them all sign on it as if it were the shareholders’ agreement of the nation. Thank you for allowing me to dream, even if for a minute.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks Nabih – yes, its not all as daunting as we often think. One caveat though. It would need to be a Lebanese CEO. Simply importing an outsider wouldn’t be the answer – has failed many times in the past. I like ‘unplug and replace’. Needs a basic level of regional certainty to underpin it of course. By the way, the Baabda Declaration is not a bad vision to work from.

  53. Hamed Mounla says:

    Dear Ambassador,
    What an inspiring article. It is really a blessing to have you as an ambassador. Your goals and perceptions about the “new and improved” Lebanon are very optimistic and stimulating. The relationship between the citizens and their government is essential to achieve a country which is more welcoming to outsiders. The Lebanese must stop formulating preconceived notions about others based on religion.
    With all that being said, being a 15 year old adolescent living in Beirut, I can easily see the ignorance that concurs people’s minds. They cannot see the future, for all their thoughts are about the past, and how revenge must be taken. Many Lebanese are not capable of acknowledging the fact that as the world is growing and people are becoming closer, conservative thoughts are repelling them from achieving peace.
    Therefore, I do see Lebanon achieving Beirutopia, but not by 2020. It needs much more time than that.

    Hamed.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Hamed, thank you for your comments. The fact that Lebanon has a generation of 15 year olds who can write that eloquently in their second or third languages is surely a reason to be optimistic? A recognition of how troubled the past was in Lebanon is vital to ensuring that it is not repeated. But we cannot make progress simply by looking in the rear view mirror.

  54. Jean Akouri says:

    Beautiful … And possible if only we all recognize: 1. That religion/dogma are the problems at the root of all evils including sectarianism which gets falsely labeled as the culprit despite it only being a symptom of blind faith that destroys reason and with it the possibility of building common ground; and 2. That the country is made up of a kaleidoscope of people and not just “Arabs.” We need to talk openly and break all taboo subjects … Political correctness will ensure the vision described in this piece never materializes …

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Fair points Jean. There is such a kaleidoscope of people here that breaking it down into tiny groups simply won’t work. And I agree with you strongly that much of the language we use to talk about politics here is so cautious and vague to be meaningless, and sometimes dangerous.

  55. michel el hage says:

    Dear Sir ,
    Thats a very possible outcome and a very impossible outcome too ,thats a similar quote to the one here above of Sir Winston Churchill.But its very kind of your good self to have such a good spirit and positive outcome to the coming future of the whole area here.In my humble opinion i do believe in a similar approach because al the signs are clear that things are changing.Lets be optimistic and only time will tell .And without hope life has no meaning .I should thank you for feeding our brains with nice vibes cause not only the physical food that keeps humans alive its also the good vibes, that people like your good self have to feed others with hope.I am not trying to be nice with you or anything but keep the good work up get in contact with people face to face on the ground .With whatever means or source u have and responsibilities may GOD bless you in your upcoming duties .

  56. Simon Holliday says:

    If Churchill says you guys are not worth reading then that is good enough for me!
    Love from UK
    Simon
    PS – Try for Ashes glory and forget the Sprint!

  57. Samer R. Frangieh says:

    Your Excellency,

    Thank you for having such an outrageous optimism in my country. I beleive that this is an achievable reality outside the Platonic Cave where my fellow citizens have unwillingly been locking themselves in.

    Perhaps one would add to the vision an element of Food and Water Security to revive a once gigantic agricultural sector. This could forge agro-economic interdependencies that strengthen the regional unity and create thousands of jobs for the unemployed – since by 2020, one would need to factor-in economic diversification from hydro carbons!

    An area of improvement, your Excellency; Qatar is prospering in hosting Cultural events and is truly on the right footing towards being a role model among other civilized gulf states. Therefore, I gracefully disagree with that part of the letter.

    Finally, I leave you with this quote from Des Brown that captures the core gist of your letter: “Shoot for the moon, even if you fail you’ll land among the stars”.

    With the assurances of my highest consideration,

    Samer R. Frangieh

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks Samer, and I love your ‘outrageous optmism’ line. Good point on a regional water strategy. People often say competition for water could start the next regional conflict. What kind of water strategy would it take to stop it?

      • Samer R. Frangieh says:

        Scarcity of water resources is a ‘common’ threat for the region. Indeed, this threat is relative to national geographic and climatic circumstances, and hence the varying perceptions / reactions towards this problem.

        One can look at it rather as a uniting factor. Take for instance the Soviet Union threat to Europe post WWII. Such an ideological threat, common to many forward thinking North American and European countries, led to the establishment of the NATO. The Nato simple motto was to keep the Americans In, the Germans Down and the Russians Out.

        A regional 21st century threat, such as water, has to be dealt with in an equal regional strategic cooperative mindset – similar to that of the NATO. The foundation of such a platform can easily (at least theoraticaly) be justified by idnetifying common ‘existantial’ threats among the fighting regional powers and then agreeing on responsibly addressing these issues for the well being of their people.

        Regional water trade could be one approach to the problem. I would foresee a natural regional exchange between water-rich countries who are way underdeveloped (as per the world’s standards) in maintaining and sustaining their resources and water-poor countries who are excelling in water desalination and water management technologies, vertical farming, etc.

        Such an exchange model can bring a win/win variable to the formula, and break the current zero sum game.

  58. Longknife21 says:

    Hi Tom,

    My friend, a Lebanese American dual citizen, sent me your article and I, as an Australian-American-British citizen, considering myself a bit of a global native albeit politically conservative, found much hopeful pleasure in reading your words. The dream of a world where society and culture matters more than national greed or political ambition is dear to me, having served for 7 years in the American military and having deployed and seen the ravages of war upon several countries.

    Although people may use the phrases “pipe dream” and “good luck with that”, that’s all we need – good luck with it. If enough people pull together, the newly discovered social power of the mass citizenry may eventually be enough to topple despotic power arrangements, and we can move into a brighter new world.

    Blessed be, sir – and go well with your dreams.

  59. ‘I Dream a Dream’… love it. Moved me to tears. Yes this is the Lebanon we all dream of but if – as the dream suggests – this could be be achieved by 2020, then I’ll run alongside you in the marathon and no one yet has seen me run … ever !!!!

    As a Brit-Lebanese I have lived my life in between the two countries and I find great comfort in knowing that I have the luxury to bring what I adapted, in terms of social behaviour and decorum, to my Lebanon and carry my Lebanese spontaneity and joie de vivre to my England… Perfect balance in a perfect world but I also live in a dream world :)

    I love how involved and passionate you are about Lebanon. I believe you’re the first ambassador who has unshackled himself of the bounds of diplomacy and strict British conduct to express his thoughts in plain English. Am not sure your successor would approve :p

    We live to achieve our dreams… I have hope yet!

  60. Osama Zahran says:

    Your excellency,

    I am not going to repeat all the positive remarques here-above, I adopt them all.

    If it wasn’t for the touch of humor at the end regarding your athletic futur, this document would be considered as the only acceptable Road Map for the Orient.
    You omitted the most important part, probably intentionally so as to check our reality awareness level

    Pope Bechara Rahi from the valley of the olive leaves, coordinated and blessed all the signed peace agreements. The world has since entered in the 1000 year peace.

    Bless you my dear visionary friend

    I am sharing horizontally

    Your truly, respects

    Osama Zahran (ref N Zaazaa)

    • Osama Zahran says:

      I unintentionally omitted the following:
      The late Martin Luther King said : I have a dream … Everybody screamed Luther-utopia …. Then came Obama

      Tom Fletcher’s Beirutopia is 2020’s reality

  61. Mazen Salha says:

    Dear Tom,
    Your scenario should be put in a time capsule, as it will go beyond 2020.
    In any case its always nice to say: “I have a dream”
    Cheers MS

  62. Bushra Salha says:

    Tom, what wit & how you made me chuckle! Sooo out of the box!
    I have, though, a prelude to your Sonata: Perhaps a meteor falling on parliament when MPs are meeting? or a man made one? Some of us are in that business.. .Very destructive curtain-raiser? Indeed. However, nature destroys for another needed growth to arise …in the land of Phoenicia.
    Your post inspired me.

  63. Ramzi H. Najjar says:

    Lighten up, people. This is a lighthearted well-intentioned blog meant to boost morale while bringing a smile to our faces. Any serious criticism of it would be not only cynical but deflating to an ambassador who has by all counts immersed himself totally into Lebanese life.

    Mr. Fletcher, I applaud your article and wish you a pleasant stay in our country.

  64. Mike Safadi says:

    Dear Mr. Fletcher,

    While reading your article, I felt I was reading mine! Same words, same ideas that I think of always for my country, you just said them in a nice way, amazing, which gave me more enthusiasm & optimism for this beautiful land!!! We should not give up, and we should not let those words, just words, just dreams!!!
    We need to make it real!! Nothing is impossible!! The resurrection of Lebanon I believe will be soon!! We should no longer be in a state of hate and of war with anybody!! It’s time to let Diplomacy, and negotiations, and cooperation take place!!

    Well Said! I don’t have any other comments to say! Good Luck! & Hope to meet in person!

    Mike

  65. Sabine Sa says:

    Dear Mr Fletcher,

    I am currently a masters student in the UK, I have lived here for 4 years and I miss and worry for Lebanon every day.

    I never comment on blog posts, but I had to this time. I would like you to know, in case you read this comment, that you made me cry. A lot. And I don’t cry easily.

    Thank you for letting me know that some people still believe in my country and respect and cherish my identity. There aren’t many who do anymore. In fact, there’s very few. So thank you. So much.

    I’ve been studying International relations for 4 years and all I can say is that I hope this post was not just wishful thinking. I can’t put in words how overwhelmed I am right now by your post, so I will leave it here. Again, thank you.

  66. Omar says:

    Dear Mr. Fletcher,

    As Lebanese it gives us great pride and pleasure to have you here in our country. Thank you for having hope in our beloved Lebanon, and thank you for always sharing your constructive ideas and opinions about the country.

    With all due respect to your successors, we would still like to have you here in 2020 your Excellency. Best of luck in the Olympics though.

    Best Regards.

  67. Serge Z says:

    Dear Mr. Fletcher,

    I cannot start my comment but by thanking you for this incredible article that states what most Lebanese think everyday in their heads but don’t know how to express it.
    This is indeed a wonderful way to go and I really hope that we will get there rather sooner than later…

    For starters, I have to disagree with some comments I have read stating that the “Beirutopia” you describe cannot happen and will stay in our heads and spirits without ever crossing the bridge to reality. Civism is a word many Lebanese have forgotten indeed, but let us not forget where we come from and what we have endured these past 50 years.
    Our war has ended without any real closure, state of insecurity and chaos still come knocking at our door from time to time. We are still in our war and only TIME will close the wounds.
    Have faith, 20 years is nothing to history’s eyes and I am convinced that with time, we will come back to think as one and hold our Lebanese flag and country up high where it belongs.
    “Always remember that the future comes one day at a time.” Dean Acheson

    This quote brings me to today, and to our struggle to get things moving.
    Unfortunately we live in a world where an external bigger force governs all our actions; our consumption by medias, education by institution, in our case, marriage by religion and the list goes on. But this sad reality is valid not only for us as individuals but also for states and countries around the world.
    The Geopolitical situation does not allow us to move forward. I am not only talking about big countries having their influence on the smaller ones, but I am also talking about elite groups, companies and organizations that fund and meticulously work their “Risk” game to control all that they can control. This is not new to us and has been this way since the beginning of time.
    It is in the interest of these “puppeteers” to maintain or even create, to a certain extent, instability and chaos in order to keep everything under their control and continue with their sovereignty.

    So yes we will get to a better Lebanon, we will get to the “Beirutopia” you have described, but only after our global system collapses to make room for new beginnings.

    Keep the faith,
    Cheers

    Serge Z

  68. Dear Tom
    Thank you for the hope in a country struggling to find its identity 70 years after its independence. Diplomats must be a breed of “born optimists” otherwise they would not take on this type of job.
    It is intriguing that the catalyst for your optimism is the newly found natural resource that is going to galvanise the region into action for peace. I wonder why we need such a find to reshape our destiny?
    History tells me that the reality is the opposite. Wars are waged to secure such resources and blood is shed for the lion share; especially given the animosity and distrust between neighbouring countries.
    Mr. Ambassador, I really would like to subscribe to your vision but 35 years after forced emigration my pain has dampened but the scar has not healed. As time goes by, I find myself a foreigner in the country of my fathers….
    You elegantly talked about brain gain. I wish this would be true because only recently less than 10.000 Lebanese abroad registered to vote in the forthcoming Lebanese election (91 in the UK!!!). How do you envisage this gain is going to manifest itself if the minimum of participation in the right to state your opinion is lacking. A white ballot paper can send the right message to say the diaspora is fed up with the current political class that have bled the countries resources and separated it down its ethnic lines. Where is such a vote??
    Does it surprise you Mr. Ambassador that the majority of replies to this utopian blog are from Lebanese émigré communities. I imagine that our brethren inside the Lebanon are saturated by the infighting, have almost given up and sheltering within their cosy enclaves.
    I am proud that the ambassador of my adopted country is engaging, optimistic and open to suggestions. Unfortunately, I do not share his vision and I truly hope I am mistaken.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks George. Yes, it is sad that so few have registered to vote, and suggests a lack of confidence that elections are the vehicle for positive change that they need to become.

  69. R says:

    You must’ve forgotten, my dear Ambassador, that it was only yesterday when you (“you” here referring, of course, to the power these lines above articulate) driven by that very old and familiar good faith (a 21st century variation on the “white man’s burden,” perhaps? Imperialist nostalgia? The smell of oil?), participated in a “coalition of the willing” that utterly destroyed a society (I mean Iraq, if you haven’t guessed already) beyond recovery, eventually leaving it behind, forgotten and forlorn, in a condition the exact mirror image of what “you” purportedly desire for Lebanon — or, to British tourists and, in the current state of capitalism, British job-seekers (who knows? I’ll take you on your word)? “Her Majesty’s Government” has a lot more explanations to make before peddling condescending advice. Tell me, my dear Ambassador, what sort of “global conversation” will take place when the British sovereign decides, one day, to invade again?

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Aha, I wondered how long before Iraq came up. And you’re right to draw the comparison, and ask the questions. But my argument, if you read my stuff, is that you should ignore “condescending advice” and take the opportunity to run Lebanon without interference.

  70. Husain says:

    What a beautifully written blog post, Mr Fletcher!

    A hat tip for one of the world’s best diplomats.

  71. R says:

    Thank you for your prompt reply, Mr. Ambassador — on a Sunday evening, nevertheless. Again, you mention Iraq, en passant, as it were, thus insisting on refraining from telling us more about it, or about what Her Majesty’s government thinks about it, or whether Your Majesty is willing to apologize publicly for it, for instance. Second, is there a reason good enough to convince me that your essay is not already interference, and, for the uninitiated in the art, what “advice” means in the diplomatic language of power, and how it guides political action in the arena of international relations (that eminently modern state of “warre of all against all,” as your compatriot Thomas Hobbes put it a few centuries ago)? For you are still telling me what I “should” do; why is that, you think? Does the Lebanese ambassador to London offer your Majesty advice, that she “should” abdicate, say, or that the privatization of higher education is something that “should” not be done? To what extent, Mr. Ambassador, does your government’s mission to the United States allow itself to offer Mr. Obama advice on how he “should” run his country’s affairs. Who, Mr. Ambassador, given the relations of power, sets the conditions of advice and conversations?

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks. I’m not the ambassador in Baghdad, and there are plenty of speeches and articles on the British role in Iraq (see http://www.fco.gov.uk), so forgive me if I don’t take up the offer for that debate. But you do raise an important point on external interference. There are of course many kinds. I’ve argued in other blogs that we may need a period of benign disassociation, where we allow Lebanon and the Lebanese people the space to forge a common project. What I’ve been trying to do in these blogs is to highlight the importance of that discussion, but not to suggest the answers. As you say, those must be generated domestically.

      Incidentally, a huge amount of diplomacy is about trying to influence the countries in which we work. That includes the US, and the work of embassies in the UK. Nothing subversive about that. Countries have different interests, and want to promote them. Doing so through politics is surely better than the other means that have been tried …

  72. Maxime Chaya says:

    Why not!?
    We can be accused of failing (yet again), but we should never be accused of not trying.
    Thank you for making us dream, Tom! If only for a brief few minutes.

  73. Elie says:

    A fantasy? No. It is more of a tear.That’s what actually your article brought to my eye, Tom!
    Very touching!

  74. Walid El Rifai says:

    Mr. Ambassador,

    Thank you for your vision and the belief in Lebanon, and for thinking that the peace is achievable.
    I promises you, that if all citizens and residents of Lebanon just rejected the negativity of the politicians and the false religious preachers, this fabulous and exotic country will shine and become again a center of human noble humbleness!
    Hoping to see none of the current legislators nor any member of the current represented parties elected as they all failed and mostly they forgot they are representatives of the people (salaried representatives) not masters of the people’s will …
    Mr. Ambassador I wish all Ambassadors to Lebanon where as Noble and real as You, thank You!

  75. Rolla hraibeh says:

    Mr Ambassador

    I say that word with great nostalgia for another Ambassador I love and admire most, my father. He is now retired , but he dedicated his entire life to beeing the proud representative of the country he loved even more than his children. He travelled the world as his assignements dictated, from Europe to Africa to Canada and finally Latin America and the Carribean’s, his only goal was to help one day realise a dream that resembled the Beirutopia you describe.

    So optimistic about the futur of his beloved Lebanon, because so proud of its history and the accomplichements of its children both in Lebanon and abroad.

    And even though he experienced the beauty, peace and people of other countries he visited he never wanted to retire anywhere else then in his native land. Today he is a disullusioned almost bitter man having given so much and believed so much.

    Maybe you could give him some of your hope and optimism and show him that all he worked for might not be in vain.

    I never wanted to leave my country. Today I cannot imagine returning for more than a holiday to see my elderly parents…

  76. Claude Marcos says:

    Mr. L’Ambassadeur,

    I wish you the best of luck with the Olympics. Who knows, if you win them, I might even believe in this Lebanon of the future you so beautifully painted for us….

    Good luck!

  77. Dina Sarkis says:

    I admire people with vision & a positive outlook for how can you strive for success if all you allow yourself to foresee is destitute failure! Some have described “beirutopia” as a dream, well to those who did & particularly those who assumed that it is an unattainable dream; I can affirm that beirutopia actually describes Beirut & Lebanon as we have known it and were previlaged to have lived in it from the late 1960s right through to 1974 & that is a conservative dateline. Of course you have to put things in context: public transport was fair and affordable, traffic lights functioned & were respected at every intersection, every street in the city had a clean pavement for pedestrians who by the way were never run down by ignorant drivers, the streets were lit, garbage was collected directly from homes & buildings, people recycled & reused because it was a way of life not necessarily to save the ozone layer, of course we had clean running potable water taps in our kitchens & 24/7 electricity in our homes and public spaces. The economy was booming, art, music, theatre and literature were vibrant, illiteracy was close to nil and Lebanon was being evaluated by the UN so as to be listed as a developed country.
    All this & much more, believe it or not, long before the potential income of natural gas.
    The politicians were same as now for the most part corrupt (perhaps a little less greedy back then, perhaps); but the lebanese people were less different from one another: armenian, catholic, druise, maronite, protestent, shiite, sunni, etc… (alphabetical order) they dressed the same, studied in similar schools and lived similar lives. (Armenians may have been the exceptions having had their own schools). Differences were for the most part between rural & urban lifestyles rather than differences in religions and sects. Religious fanatism/fundementalism did not exist, people were more focused on the morality than the form, the hijab was practicaly non existant ( head covers were worn in church, and by few elderly women in villages), beer, wine, arak & other drinks were on the menu in any restaurant from Tyr to Tripoly, Ouzaii had the most amazing beaches… I could go on & on reminisssing Not Dreaming,
    To cut it short, I belive that it is every citizen’s duty to dream of a better future and to aspire to make their dream a reality.
    To those who found beirutopia unattainable I can honestly tell them that it is & even sooner than 2020 if we all pitch in: start by not parking in restricted areas walk a little its good for your silouete, don’t throw that mankoushi wrapper or soda can out of your car window, when driving Look before you move & Never block the flow of traffic neither to buy that mankoushi nor to talk to your friend in the next car drive a couple of meters further and you will surely find a space to stop without obstructing traffic. These will not resolve all the big issues but they will surely make everybody’s days a little less stressful and will pave the way to the more complicated problems.
    But I thank you Mr. Fletcher for describing beirutopia, you have presented a pretty decent “on the one hand” “on the other hand” possible scenarios. I dont think that it is “fantasie” nor is it “naiive” but it does certainly depend on us particularly if as you forsee “in her speach (the president…”
    With a women president there is no doubt that we can put all the wars behind us once & for all, then get started rebuilding beirutopia.

  78. Nicolas says:

    Your Excellence

    Many thanks for this futuristic outlook. Indeed, Lebanon needs to realize that it has a great potential to excel in a role that reaches far and away beyond its borders.

    I agree that if all Lebanese could see the big picture and what they would have to gain, they would stop bickering and focus on a long-term strategy for development where politics would be at the service of the economy, not vice-versa.

    Beirutopia… The message is clear, the choice is ours!

    Kind regards

  79. Farid Fakherddin says:

    Your Excellency, as I mentioned when I shared this article it is a dream but can not see why it can not come true, First, I like the idea that the head of the UK mission to Lebanon thinks this way (of course we had previously discussions and you were always impressive ) second as we are approaching elections soon (if it or they will let it happen) which can be the first step towards achieving the article dream. Third, what is happening in the region makes the chances of achieving it higher, finally the Gas issue is promising if it was properly handled – the key issue is producing a new politician group that have the will to change and the ability to spread out side their religious and sectarian barriers

  80. Rana Ghazal-Laghoutis says:

    Your Excellency,

    Allow me first to say that it was a pleasure meeting you in Cyprus last year. You have a wonderful family!

    Now, regarding the blog above, as a Lebanese that fled the country in 1986, returned in 1999 only to leave again in 2007, the above makes me want to come back home again!

    If everyone thought the way you did, a long time ago, Lebanon would have had Beirutopia for a loooong time now! My only wish is that what you have envisioned above will really come true in 2020. Miracles happen everyday, so why shouldn’t we be one if them?

  81. tony jallad says:

    it is indeed a good article talking about the future of Lebanon in such an optimistic way ,it is healthy to be so optimistic in life ,and what was at stake here is the beautiful one side of the coin, we all long to attain and realize this dream.however another picture may also be very pessimistic which is better not to talk about it and instead cross our fingers and hope to a better future for this lovely country.

  82. Eva says:

    I truly believe that we can achieve this and even more! Maybe the secret is in not missing the next “time zero” moment, as we are aces in missing valuable chances and failing to planning things upfront!
    We have missed it in the last 2 decades at least twice, once in 1992 and the second in 2005! I hope we won’t have to wait another 13 years or we would miss the 2020 celebrations :).
    Rebuilding a new “social pacte” is essential now in Lebanon, the rest will follow, more trust among citizens, more accountability towards the officials and the peace of mind and ability to plan for the future generations, to build a modern country well rooted and proud of its culture and traditions, will come as its natural results.
    What a great read to start the week with and a very positive way to see the future, thanks!

  83. Karimbo says:

    I only wish that Lebanon was led by men of vision and not merchants who have no clues about the wherabouts of our country.
    Having said that, I prefer to remain optimistic and believe that what lies ahead is better than what we are going through today (and for the last 40 years to that effect).

  84. Roula M. says:

    Dear Ambassador,

    To walk along with you in this utopia I might add:

    The Iranian Ambassador congratulated the Israeli Ambassador for several positive moves Israel has finally taken which have demonstrated some sincerity in their desire for rightful peace.

    For example:

    It has donated all the gas fields to Lebanon and Palestine. It has recognized and apologizing for all the harm it has caused to the area with its violent hateful invasions and the killing of so many people. It has acknowledged that the Lebanese “civil” war would not have happened (at least would not have been so violent or lasted so long) if Israel had not been shoved forcefully into the area. It has acknowledged and apologized for many of the assassinations and side road bombs it was responsible for and recognized its role in instigating internal divisions. It has acknowledged that many of the disagreements between the Middle-East and the West (including terrorism and the rise of extremism in Islam) wouldn’t have occured. It has created a fund to compensate the families of civilian victims (Lebanese and Palestinian) as well as built a memorial for them. It stands one minute in silence every year to honor those victims. It has renounced and dismantled its atomic bombs (and other bombs with such destructive potential)…

    Yours sincerely,
    Roula M.

  85. Salim F. Dahdah says:

    Monsieur l’Ambassadeur,
    Permettez-moi de vous répondre dans la langue de Molière pour vous dire combien votre démarche est intellectuellement et politiquement à la fois touchante, intelligente et opportune. Mais aidez-nous à la concrétiser en agissant aux côtés d’une majorité silencieuse de libanais pour essayer d’obtenir la”NEUTRALITE” du Liban. Seule une telle initiative permettra de perpétuer le rêve que vous nous offrez et de le traduire en réalité. En tant que représentant d’une Grande Nation, vous n’êtes certainement pas sans ignorer Monsieur l’Ambassadeur, qu’en dehors d’une telle perspective, il ne nous restera que votre belle prose et cette promenade de l’espoir dans les dédales de notre Histoire, mais malheureusement point de salut pour la République du Cèdre…!

  86. Dear Tom

    Congratulations on winning the silver medal of the 100 meters. Better luck next time.

    Ghias (71 years old gold medalist)

  87. LK says:

    Your Excellency,

    Thank you for your hope in a better Lebanon. I do understand Lebanese loosing hope and that history repeated itself so many times through the relection of the same families to lead the country.

    We always blame politicians, the US, the UK, Europe in general.. but it’s about time we take reponsability for our actions.. Reponsability for re-electing the same people we all agree are not good enough, for criticizing every law that would make us a better country (banning smoking in restaurants, putting the seatbelt, not exceeding speed limits) by simply saying “why don’t you provide us with security, electricity and water…?”

    We should learn to start somewhere… because real change comes within and sitting there writing blogs, trashing the country is not the answer. Its only destroys it even more by putting Lebanon in the spotlight at the international Level, ruining its image and reducing its hope of getting foreign investments into the country for it to actually become a better country…

    So thank you again for believing in Lebanon.. Because honestly at this poitn this is all we have…

  88. [...] “So this blogpost is no crystal ball. But – amid the short term pessimism – many people have been talking to me about the future of Lebanon. So I wondered what my successor would write in his report following the 100th anniversary celebrations in Lebanon in 2020. Here is one of several possible versions.  Read Fletcher’s article… [...]

  89. Michel Habis says:

    Dear Tom,
    No one is denying the fact that changing for the better will be a long and difficult path, when we see other countries who surmounted their difficulties we say why not us? Of course we have many barriers but when there is a will there is a way, and it takes a nucleous of people to start and achieve great things. Your blog reflects the love you hold in your heart for Lebanon, and as a Lebanese I can only be overwelmed that a person who came to Lebanon nearly a year ago loves that country and wishes us Lebanese such a beautiful and bright future.
    Thank you my friend for this roller coster of positive emotions, Best, Michel

  90. Mouna Mounayer says:

    Dear Tom

    20 years I left my home in London to seek my fortune in Lebanon. I am half British and half Lebanese and I wanted to see what I could do as a documentary film -maker in Lebanon. 20 years on I am a founding partner and CCO in Firehorse, one of the leading production companies in the region. That is not to say that we did not reach breaking point many times over the years, because of instability and lack of laws protecting the citizen…I could go on… What you have written is a lovely fantasy based on money coming from gas to turn our fortunes but I think intrinsically Lebanon’s people are flawed and any money money coming in from gas is going into pockets as it has always done – Lebanon is a dream breaker. I have seen it at work for two decades. You have every right to ask why I am still here and I suppose it is is the constant hope that the fantasy you imagined could one day come true. My father waited 76 years and died of a broken heart in August 2006. I have waited 20 years….good luck in the olympics…however badly you run now, you have time to practice.

    Mouna

  91. Elie J Keyrouz says:

    Tom Fletcher you rock!

  92. Tarek Sultani says:

    Your Excellency, if you don’t mind – i am just going to call you Tom. That’s because you communicate like a person i think we can all relate to, not like our leaders who are so self absorbed and bought into their own delusion of leadership

    I think the Lebanese politicians can learn a lesson about humility and humanity from you. Seems like everyone of them has forgotten that they are “Public Servants”. No accountability, no vision.

    Change doesn’t come easy. I believe the country can change. But its from grass roots up. No one thought our neighbor would change, soon he will be visiting his former peers from Iraq and Libya. So change in Lebanon is inevitable.

    Albert Einstein said: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    We, the People need to initiate change.

  93. Denise says:

    Dear Ambassador Fletcher:

    In reality, achievable. If only the Lebanese realized their talents, this could be their reality. You are doing the right thing, you are making the young and educated think and achieve.

    Thank you for opening eyes.

  94. Jad says:

    I will try to keep an optimistic view, I will comment on this article in 2020
    Hoping that we learn from our mistakes & not keep on repeating them since the “creation” of LEBANON
    But thank you Tom for having faith in us when clearly so much have lost it.

  95. Zouzou says:

    It’s a naïve dream.

    You don’t have enough time to train for the Olympics to win 100m.

    Other than that, a lovely article.
    It seems Beirutopia begins circa 2014, so I’m guessing the next government will be very influential. I loved the part in which the expats are returning and politics being driven by younger people who haven’t been in long enough to get corrupt. The female president, civil marriage, peace with Israel are all great things, and having center-left and center-rights parties implies the end of radicals and extremists.
    I can feel it my heart, this dream will come true.
    Maybe not as soon as 2020, but the sooner the better.

  96. Gilbert says:

    I dreamed a dream in time gone by when hope was high and life worth living….. Now life has killed the dream I dreamed!!

  97. Abdallah Haddad says:

    Wow that’s A Vision ! Something I have never seen coming from lebanese politicians. They are so busy arguing between each others so they forget or are unable to prove some imagination and usually they deliver nightmares. I hope you will inspire them Mr Ambassador.

  98. nabil debs says:

    In my opinion the most difficult part of this is not regional peace or Mr Fletcher winning gold at the Olympics but rather Beirut becoming a car and honking free city…

  99. imad says:

    I could not help but smile when I read your words, Excellency. Rien est impossible a celui qui croit, and I believe that someday lebanon will be reborn to a better future. The question here is not Lebanon, but Israel. For it is Israel that has turned down the Arabs offer of peace that was signed in Beirut, as it is Israel that is still building walls of apartheid and obstacles to peace by continuing to rape and pillage Palestinian land in both the West Bank and Gaza. Get Israel to stop this, Excellency, and you have Lebanon sign a peace treaty with it, and we will both realize our Beirutopia.

  100. Joumana Kreidi says:

    I read your article twice. First time I had tears in my eyes… felt you were describing a dream… Second time, it seemed so feasible, so realistic… made me upset, disappointed by my Lebanon. I would be the first person to help make Lebanon a better place. I can only hope… Thank you Mr. Ambassador

  101. DZC says:

    Your Excellency,
    Tom,

    I am a born Diaspora-then move to Leb-now Diaspora again proud to be Lebanese.
    I came across your post yesterday and read it 3 times in a row; brought tears to my eyes. I then read each of your posts from start to finish with a keen interest in confirming this hunch I had….the one that believes you have an incredibly rare ability to drive positive vision.

    Drive. Positive. Vision. Strong enough words on their own let alone put together!

    I appreciate that every optimistic touch in your statements is fueled by the will to turn reality checks into opportunities of betters and is not just naive or out of the blue.

    Beyond the fact that I believe you are a good person, talented writer and a convincing politician, there is no doubt in my mind that you are also an active doer. So many talented young or less young Lebanese could only wish of the opportunity to develop projects with you and the FCO to move in the 2020 direction ..are there any? I know a couple that would excel in brain picking battles and have the Energizer bunny like tenacity to get there with the right vision and support….Just saying ;)

    Would be nice to have more inspiring doer leaders …

    Thank you for everything that you do. Please don’t stop.
    Sincerely,
    D.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      I think there are loads of young and less young Lebanese who have the drive and positive vision that you do. I want to use the Leb2020 hashtag to try to identify and connect them. We’re running a series of themed events, around the 2020 issues, to bring together experts and duracell bunnies. Hope you’ll get involved. The problem is definitely not a lack of talent, it is more a sense of hopelessness that things can change. Once you break the cycle of fatalism, the future looks brighter.

      • Céline says:

        Tom Fletcher, i love you. Not only we, youth of lebanon, believe in our future but you too. HOPES. THANKS A LOT.

      • DZC says:

        Thank you for answering :) The future does look brighter…I will definitely keep track of the events and hope to keep in touch to participate as much as much as I can, when and where I can.
        All the best,
        Danielle

  102. zena m m says:

    Your Excellency,

    In 2020, the ‘face’ of earth might change and boarders disappear…no visas… no wars, no laws…
    Earthtopia
    let’s wait and see!

    Sincerely,
    zena

  103. Tony El-am says:

    Usually governments put their best people behind the best opportunities ;). Fill in the blank, the bigger picture is quite promising. Tom Fletcher I hope we see you going public more often, as much as I hope that you won’t be re-assigned any time soon :). Thanks for sharing.

  104. Elie Brax says:

    Tom, Toaaaaam, waaaaaake up, we’re in 2013 and our deputies are discussing the “Orthodox” elections law ..

  105. John "Leb" Doe says:

    Mr. Fletcher
    Thank you sir! Even if this vision is optimistic, imagination is important in our ability to shape future events. Perhaps some people will read it and say “why not?” and work towards some of these goals. If half of these predictions turn out true, it will indeed be a blessed future.
    Thank you sir. We are lucky to have you.

  106. samer kanafani says:

    Great article. Instead of analysing and criticizing it. Me and a group of friends are starting a social enterprise that generates renewable energy in rural communities in Lebanon. That how the post civil war generation is acting. Stop nagging and blaming the government. Do something smart about it.. details coming soon on a reality TV show called state academy. Cheers

  107. Halim says:

    Sir thomas fletcher or should i say sir thomas moore ;). However i wish uk spent as much beneficial energy and resources on lebanese youths by opening more the doors to its prestigious universities. However thanks Mr ambassador because great minds discuss ideas as you sir !

  108. Karim S. says:

    Great piece – I actually got lost in it and felt very strange – strange because I realized that as much as I love my country, I never dreamt of such a future…actually, I never even dreamt of future in Lebanon at all and I don’t know whether it’s sad or, assuming many are like me, it is the reason why Lebanon is in such a poor state. As much as I like to think of myself as a positive and determined person, I just realized that this positivity and determination is dead when it comes to Lebanon…It’s crazy. It’s as if growing up in Lebanon with the petty politics, sectarianism and struggles have killed my own ability to dream a better future for my country.

    I really wish you would translate this article and publish it in the local newspapers. Lebanese people are so entrenched in their daily struggles and superficial routines that they have lost the ability to dream a brighter future for their country. This article reminds us to dream, and work towards a bright future inside/for our country and not abroad.

    All the best. For better or for worse, from London.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks Karim, we have an Arabic version going out today. As you say, the first challenge is to change the tone of the debate. Then to build support for new approaches. Then to put in the plans and the hours to deliver them.

  109. Maya Matar says:

    Your Excellency,

    It is so touching that I couldn’t help myself from crying, i cried because Lebanon doesn’t deserve anything less, I cried because for the first time I was able to see such a beautiful picture of my country, I cried because our vision of lebanon never went so far and never was so positive. I know, your response will be, crying is not the solution we need to act, dream and execute our dreams. Starting today your article is my road map, my new constitution, my new hope…

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thank you Maya. What do you think you’ll be doing in Lebanon in 2020?

      • Maya Matar says:

        Your question made me think all the day, I am a lawyer specialized in commercial law and I would love to see myself in 2020 working for multinationals trying to establish their regional office in Lebanon, or helping the Lebanese family business to develop and compete with the world, or assisting the foreign companies and individuals establishing their off-shore and holding companies in Lebanon, I would like to see the expansion of the local companies and participate in important Lebanese acquisitions.
        On another note, I would like to be able in 2020 to take my kids who will be by then 12 and 8 years old to visit tyr and tripoli and baalbeck with no fear.

        As for 2013, I would like to call for a meeting in order to gather all those who posted comments and liked this article in order to have a brainstorming session or maybe dream together. Can we organize it with the assistance of the embassy?

  110. Good one Tom…Quite Rosy but as the old saying goes…From your blog to god’s ears :))

  111. Serge Hd says:

    Tom Fletcher you are the MAN.

    #Leb2020 , Let’s make it Reality !

  112. The chances of you, Tom, winning the 100m & 200m in the Olympics of 2020 is more plausible than the wishful thinking of Lebanon at 100.
    Anyway thank you Tom.

  113. Ramzi says:

    So you mean to say that it was all peace between Iran and the rest all these years and Iran did not need it’s arm in Lebanon to fire rockets somewhere or to kidnap foreigners on Lebanese soil? And by the way, who finally took the train contract? Was it this Korean company represented in Lebanon by the nephew of xyz at double the price they did the one in Qatar for the World Cup? And these trains are supposed to be conductor-free, why we see on the payroll 500 conductors all from the same sect and from the same region?
    Thanks for trying Tom. I guess you need to move to Lebanese coffee and I suggest Super Brazil.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks Ramzi. You’re right to point out some of the challenges, as others have. See my earlier blog on the five regional questions that need settling if Lebanon is to have the best possible chance of success. I don’t underestimate them. But I also think we should avoid a fatalistic approach of assuming that the cycle on external interference and internal agreement is set in stone. Your point on corruption is striking. We’re aiming to support new citizen-led anti-corruption initiatives. Watch this space.

  114. Bchara Bujawdeh says:

    Dear All. What caught my attention was the extensive number of positive comments on the blog, rather than the article itself. If the catalyst was an intriguing article by Mr. Fletcher, then i suppose the reaction should start to materialize in each one of us. We have 7 years until 2020, so let’s all put a plan into action. For this, may i propose the first step that could really make substantial difference. Let’s vow to SMILE while driving our cars, particularly on intersections, rather than treat our driving habits as if it was one of the biggest battles in WW-III happening each and every morning on our way to work. We might all be surprised how the results of such a simple act can develop in snow-ball effect (PS i’m starting as of tomorrow morning). I look forward to hear other proposals brought forward by others.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks Bchara. You’re absolutely right – the comments have been far more important than the initial musings. It is really encouraging to hear how many people want to engage and to promote positive change. That makes me more confident that Beirutopia, or whatever version of it you choose, is realisable. I’ll look out for you, smiling through the traffic jams!

      • Bchara Bujawdeh says:

        Thank you Mr. Fletcher for your response. i hope you will never find me among the many “smilers” who will put this quite challenging vow into effect. For this, i have decided to print stickers saying “I SMILE WHILE DRIVING… PLEASE SMILE BACK AT ME” in both Arabic and English. Those will be legible from both sides so people can stick them on their cars, and be reminded of them. They will be distributed for free, and i will make sure to send a few for you to help spreading the message. If anyone of the bloggers is in touch with KUNHADI, i would appreciate their guidance in promoting this concept further

  115. Maia Sarrouf says:

    Brilliant article. Thank you. Let’s keep the positive vibs rolling !

  116. Tony naggear says:

    Dear Mr.Ambassador,
    You are showing optimism as to the future of Lebanon , so am I.
    A dream could turn to reality , and Lebanese people , mainly those who are residing in this country deserve this image to turn to reality.
    Bless Lebanon , one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
    Keep on helping us reaching this wonderful moment.
    Thank you.

  117. Roula Emanuel says:

    i will leave everything just to follow such mind like you….wish everybody will learn…wht i really like most : ” The establishment of Palestine the same year, following intense US-led engagement, meant the return of many Palestinian refugees from Lebanon. Western tourists now visit Israel, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon on the same trip, and many Lebanese Christian and Muslim pilgrims from Lebanon visited Jerusalem last year.”
    should be proud to mixed my nationality with yours Mr. Tom….it is also a dream :) …..Thank you,,,

  118. Dr. Salma Samaha says:

    Why not? I believe that everything is possible…we have to dream of it and after work for it!
    Thank you Tom Fletcher :)

  119. Jad Azkoul says:

    Nice post, actually very nice.

    Culturally speaking, hope you’re keeping an eye on the Lebanese rock / blues bands that are rising

    Why wait till 2020? Any ideas of organizing one day a British cultural week in Beirut? A lot if things to do (Music, food, theatre, maybe an exhibition,…)

    We love your country, and your humour

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks Jad. We had a Britweek last year, to mark the Jubilee. Over 60 events – including concerts. We’re looking at when to do the next one. Will look out for the bands as you suggest. Keep the ideas coming.

  120. Farid El-Khalil says:

    Your Excellency,
    Thank you for taking the time and having the passion to give us all a view of what could be the other side of the coin..
    Thank you also for believing that the Lebanese can make the change (since we have lost such faith in ourselves).
    Many of those who commented above, have valid points..Institutional reform, and the need for a fundemental build of our infra-structure..and here I do not just mean roads, electricity, telecom etc..but even more important would be our educational infra-structure.
    If we are to to hope to make your dream / ours, a reality, then we must have not just education on our side, but also culture in us..
    It is those tools that will define us, and enable the future generations to think and act on the same level ..
    Furthermore, to get there, (achieve this wonderful challenge; I do not look at it as a “dream” since if we can and want to dream with you, then we could and should be able to make this a realisable challenge) we need to become Lebanese, become one Nation, one country and not remain as Lebanese individuals living in our fiefdoms..
    When I stop seeing even one person opening his car window and throwing gabage on the road, then I will know that we have become one Nation, a nation with culture..
    When we all agree to accept one history book as our history, then we would have started walking upon the path of building nationhood..
    So, yes, there is much that needs to happen in our lebanon, and in the Middle East and the rest of the world that impacts us, as many have mentioned in their comments..
    Yet, I do believe that it can happen, even perhaps in 2020..Perhaps your article will inspire the “Hero” that we need..A person who will make such a dream his or her objective..a leader with whom the “silent majority” will gather, will lay down a revolution that will bring about our evolution..
    Thank you for the glimpse of light..

    Farid El-Khalil

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks Farid. It is great to have had such a positive response. The next step is to start identifying practical ways to deliver the changes that are needed. I think you need more than one hero. Probably 4 million …

      • Farid El-Khalil says:

        True..In essence, anyone willing to committ thought and time (money where needed), to be part of this initiative is indeed a “hero”. Typically though, the hero I am referring to is Leadership..A person of integrity, wisdom, charisma and passion that can start putting down the fundemental steps required to attain the objective..attract the assets (human & otherwise) needed , and tirelessly work towards executing the agreed plans..
        Farid

        • Tom Fletcher says:

          Thanks Farid. I refuse to believe that there are not Lebanese people like that out there. I’ve met many of them.

  121. Fadi Nabi says:

    Tom
    I am one of those Lebanese who left Lebanon several decades ago, as a young man who recognized early on that our biggest enemy is corruption.
    How do you – how do we – eradicate the monster of pervasive corruption?
    Fadi

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks Fadi. Tough question. I think that social media gives you a powerful new tool in countering corruption. There are also important citizen-driven initiatives being developed, eg ipaidabribe.com Given the amount of interest in this theme in the comments so far, I’ll do a blog highlighting some of the best ideas out there.

  122. Hala Salha says:

    Dear Mr. Fletcher,

    I have to admit that while reading your blog, I wondered for few times if what I am reading is fiction, real, fantasy, etc,… As a Lebanese, who gave up long time ago, I had like every one my share from the corruptions and the distractions that happened in Lebanon for the last 30 years. but, forgot that now, WOW big WOW. Even if I connect the lines together, I have this voice inside me calling and says “yes”, dreams comes true sometimes:) Your vision for future Lebanon is every Lebanese dream.
    I can write and write and elaborate for hours about my feelings, but WELL, here you go, you presented our dream in lines and thoughts.
    Thanks.

  123. Alain Mouhawej says:

    Tom… what can I say? I won’t say much but rather bow to this positive note. It is a dream, but one that can be realized; We know that it is not out of reach, let us just keep that positive mindset and work altogether towards achieving this ultimate objective.

    Cheers,
    Alain M.

    • Bchara Bujawdeh says:

      Dear All, this guy presented his service in designing the SMILE stickers. One phone call and he was all over it. Thank you so much Alain. The design will be forwarded to either KUNHADI or YASA for guidance on safety or any other relevant matter. The first print will be financed by myself. Subsequently, we are in contact with a couple of companies for sponsoring. Then we count on as many people as possible to spread the message. Comments are more than welcome!

  124. Wassef Ezzedine says:

    Your Excellency, it is heartening to hear all this coming from a foreign mind, although I now sincerely believe that you have a more Lebanese heart than many Lebanese…
    I am convinced most of what you describe will actually take place because it is the natural course of life, only I don’t know when, and it might take some time. I think things naturally tend to settle at where there is less damage, in the long run.
    The problem with us Lebanese is that we tend to prefer to be the unbelievers, mockingly criticizing with sarcasm whoever thinks out any positive outcome scenario, because it allows us to take glory in playing the “expert” who already thought out all possibilities, from which only our inevitable doom can be predicted.
    And we keep shouting foul and impossible all the way till these positive outcomes actually happen, at which time we are caught totally unprepared, unable to take advantage, watching others profit from them…
    Thank you for laying it out so clearly, so that at least we would have heard it somewhere… (I am also glad to find out that someone else thinks the better alternative can actually take place, which means we might actually be closer than I thought !)
    And good luck for the 100m ! (the 200m you might be pushing too far though… )

  125. Elias Khoury says:

    Dear Mr. ambassador:
    An enjoyable and positive foresight of Lebanon 2020.. I had forgetten we will be centennial so soon! Two points though: On hoping Syria is a 2011-2013 conflict, I do hope it will be so but I am afraid it will spill into 2014. On Lebanon reaching internal consensus and electing the first female president (who chooses civil marriage) with Hezbollah “on board”: I have my doubts… I consider Hezbollah a systemic, endemic problem that will take more than internal concensus to resolve.

  126. Farid Atrach says:

    Dear Sir;

    I love your optimism, I love your sincere believe in a positive future, I love you sense of positive thinking, love the upbeat “doer” mentality, I love all of that, I did not know they teach Utopianism a the foreign service!!!!
    Your words constitute a beautiful dream that you can afford to have, albeit all Lebanese should be able to share this dream, unfortunately the vast majority of them do not. All those posts and blogs are the domain of intellectuals, dreamiest, utopians…. I wonder if you went to Akar, or Aarsal, Dahie or if you just listen in the vast majority of people when they talk with their own kind??? Most homes in Lebanon have prejudices, most Christians discuss the impeding fundamental Muslim sweep across the region, most Sunnis discuss the Shia rise and the so called “Shia Crescent form Iran to the Mediterranean” most Shias discuss the Sunni fundamentalist and their desire to exterminate them…..on and on… I wish I can have your optimist, your word are like a feel good movie…good to get your mind off reality.
    In all due respect, Lebanon is a broken formula, a shattered remains of a mosaic that existed for a short period and mostly still live in the minds of hearts and good people. Wake up and face reality that Lebanon will never be again. The future of this country is more of the same; you can argue we cannot go much lower, still I think it will. Eventually something will rise from the ruble, what I do not know.
    Sorry for the wakeup call……

  127. elio aziz says:

    This is the dream of each and every lebanese living and abroad…..
    But we are almost certain with the leaders we have, it will remain just that! :(

  128. Lena Abboud says:

    I hope this dream comes true, and your vision becomes reality. And thanks for seeing Such a corrupt country becoming a “COUNTRY”

  129. Beirutopian can be real…

    Take a look on LIVE LOVE BEIRUT initiative from LIVELOVELEBANON NGO… we live to aspire by loving to inspire…

    http://www.facebook.com/LiveLoveBeirut?ref=ts&fref=ts

    On behalf of LLB team,
    “GMP”
    Bitar edouard

  130. Maya Abdel-Ahad says:

    Excellent article!
    I look forward to seeing this dream happen. I would be more than happy to return and live in my beloved country, among my family and friends, without ever having to worry again about the political instability in the region that pushed many of us away from home…

  131. A very interesting to read article: a very “dreamy” one but yet full with optimistic views.. Allow me to share your dream Mr. Fletcher and allow me more to work on it.. I hope you will do your part as well.

    Best,

  132. Flattery will get you everywhere :)

  133. Hanan says:

    This is a dream….. And I believe that if we want the rainbow, we should put up with the rain first…. And one day, i know it, this dream will become true. Thanks Your Excellency for giving us the chance to dream again.

  134. Mr Happy says:

    Your Excellency,

    First let me start by thanking you for your words of wisdom. As Helen Keller said and I quote, “No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.”

    I applaud your vision, share the same and believe it is a very possible scenario.

    Only if…

    I have seen throughout the comments of your blog that most people are either dreamers or pessimists…
    The words: hope, wish and dream were used abundantly by dreamers.

    In one of the comments by Majed in which you reiterated, you discussed about having a shared vision.
    We all share the same vision of the internal Lebanon you describe, it is the external vision of Lebanon that we are having a dilemma over.
    Perhaps our main challenge is that we are focusing on the “their outside vision” instead of focusing on “our inside vision”!
    We are relying on external events/circumstances dictate our future rather than take matters into our own hands.

    We tend to consistently blame our politicians, however let me point out that it is not productive and rather it is an “excuse” for us not to do any work (I do not believe politicians are right, but lets bypass them as they don’t seem very reliable).
    We are lazy, we “hope”, “dream”, “wish” that some magical hero will come and rescue us…
    “If you have time to whine and complain about something then you have the time to do something about it.” Anthony J. D’Angelo
    Or as Mahatma Gandhi suggested, “If you want to change the world, start by changing yourself.”

    Let me go further by proposing a couple of solutions:

    A study done by Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky (MBA Harvard Business School, PHD Stanford University) showed that while 50% of our happiness set-point is genetic, 10% of our happiness is circumstantial, and 40% of our HAPPINESS is under OUR control !!!!
    She goes further in her study to show that one of the key actions to improve happiness is to get involved with our community regularly and doing random acts of kindness.

    Bill Gates – “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

    True it “seems” unbelievable to have this vision accomplished by 2020, but if each one of us would:

    – Do random acts of kindness on a daily basis such as: paying the lunch for the table that will follow; treat a friend to the movies for no reason; leave change in the vending machine for the next person; anonymously leave a scratch card for someone to find; send someone a note of thanks; write someone a short, simple message saying something nice; LET SOMEONE GO AHEAD IN LINE :P; pick up some rubbish which would otherwise be lying around; anonymously leave a bunch of flowers on a neighbor’s doorstep; make a homeless person a sandwich; organize a charity day at work; wash a neighbor’s car….

    Those daily habits would gradually replace greed and jealousy with love and compassion overtime.

    Coming back to Bill Gate’s quote, Imagine if every resident would be doing just those habits daily for the next 7 years, greed would be replaced by love, don’t you think it would resolve much of the corruption for the least?
    Lets assume for the simplicity that we have around 4’000’000 residents.
    If each one would do 1 random act of kindness/day that would make 4’000’000 acts of kindness/day.
    Over a year: 1’460’000’000 random acts of kindness
    Over 7 years: 10’220’000’000 random acts of kindness

    Remember that everything is energy and energy cannot be destroyed, only changed.
    That is in order to “get rid” of corruption, greed,… you can only change those emotions by practice the opposite!

    I would like to end with a message to the dreamers, as I used to be one of them:

    ‎”I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I’m supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I’m praying for strength.
    I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things.” Mother Teresa

    HAPPY Regards,
    Mr Happy

  135. Bahi Ghubril says:

    Another Churchill quote: “The further back I look, the further forward I can see.” So in trying to look 7 years forward, I look 7 years back, and wonder how are we going to achieve any of what you eloquently portrayed for 2020, when we have hardly advanced (actually regressed) since 2005! The only real objective comment or analysis to make, is to gather what and why went wrong in the past 7 years, and tackle the obstacles one at a time for a brighter next 7 years. Though it might take 70…!!

  136. Silva Karam says:

    Your Excellency,
    Thank you very much indeed for this much needed visualization for Lebanon 2020. No doubt, your Excellency’s message was brilliantly expressed and let’s pray it will be a wake-up call, and with luck can be
    realized.

    Best regards,
    Silva

  137. Alexis Klimoff says:

    Hello Candid ( certainly not …. ) having what you created in 1948 , and still taping on our door ,your utopic country which is to be , will remain an unfortunate mirage ….
    No hard feelings
    regards

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      No hard feeling at all Alexis. But we face a basic choice. To continue finding reasons why positive change is not possible, and people to blame. Or to try to build an alliance behind practical initiatives to improve the situation. I’m encouraged by the number of comments on the second option.

  138. Fadi EL Halabi says:

    Your Excellency:

    I am quite sure that in your vision of Lebanon, Beirut will become an inclusive city: “A City of All and for All”
    Cheers.
    Fadi.

  139. roula cortbawi says:

    dear Mr. Fletcher, this is the country we’re dreaming of, & by God’s will we’ll enjoy to live in, & the way you’re describing it well it’s very unrealistic, but still we’re praying & hoping to get to it & we’re so grateful to have you as an ambassador in our beloved Lebanon

  140. Elyane Jamhoury says:

    Is it a dream or based on real insights? so I should wait until 2020 to return to live in Lebanon. Thanks for giving us expats a bit of hope :)

  141. audrey williams naman says:

    There’s only one dream many Lebanese have is for our little country to become neutral, then we can truly say “The Switzerland of the middle east”, inshallah!!!

  142. Hi Tom,

    This is a very nice article and I thank you on behalf of all the Lebaneese for your depicting so hopefully a bright future for this small but deserving country. I also feel or at least you make us feel that never has England been so close to the Lebanon.

    I hope that in the eve of the prosperity you wish for Lebanon, justice will prevail and that those that have sunk my boat, the Piccolo Mondo, eventhough holding a British flag, but failed to sink the Saint George Hotel, will be tried and found guilty and that those who have robbed the country will leave and that Lebanon will be wealthy enough to overcome the corruption which has plagued the country since the advent of the Hariri regime its influence and governements and of course the unfortunate creation of Solidere…

    The saint George invites you in 2020 to celebrate your/our dream come true. Meanwhile all are invited to dream in the Saint George and with the Saint George for its resurection and that of Lebanon.

    I wish you all the success you deserve and I am sure you will keep Lebanon in your heart in 2020 like you will stay in Lebanon’s and the Lebaneese heart and your country will influence ours to respect and uphold human rights…

    Fady

  143. Sabiha says:

    Dear Mr. Ambassador,

    I am a Lebanese student currently studying in London. May I first say how refreshing your words are. I salute you for recognizing the great potential of Lebanese citizens but I am not inclined towards utopic narratives in general.

    I wish I could say the same about the UK. I am appalled by the way the UK treats overseas students. One MP lately suggested taking such students off the NHS and replacing it with private insurance. Really? Perhaps you should spread your idealism to the UK in an effort to remind those currently in governement that the universal health care system of the UK is a jewel. Yes, it does attract the scroungers who rip it off to say the least, but it is also a reminder why an overseas student would chose to go to the UK rather than the US, Australia, and so on. Any overseas student can easily afford a private health insurance (you know how expensive tuition fees are in the UK – and still rising), but making the NHS beyond access is one way of showing us the door.

    I have only mentioned the NHS as an example. The incident with the London Metropolitan University is another sad illustration of the UK’s gradual disconcern about overseas students (I am not a LMU student by the way).

    You state in one of your comments that the time has come to “build alliances”. Among who and where, I wonder. Every embassy in the world “places” Lebanese citizens among those who pose the highest threat and consequently subject them to a suspicious, if not humiliating, scrutiny.

    At the end of my comment, my I say, once again, how kind and motivational your stand is. Perhaps your generosity and optimism will infect me soon but I doubt that my dystopia-fuelled vaccine is going to wear out anytime soon.

    Best wishes,
    Sabiha

  144. Ralph Nader says:

    Your Excellency,

    Great way to describe the Lebanon which all Lebanese dream of having someday. Your post made me laugh and cry about what we have and we are currently doing with our beloved country. I hope this Beirutopia becomes a reality if not in 2020, maybe 2043 or 2113! I’ve alway been optimistic about the future of my country, I believe Lebanese mentality has to change, we need to start changing in the education system to achieve a non-sectarian society and belonging to one state for all. Yes, the future is bright and this phase must end soon or else, we’ll all be running not 100 or 200m but marathons to find a new places for us to live in peace and dignity.
    Thanks again for your devoted time and effort for our Lebanon.

    Br,
    Ralph B. Nader

  145. odabbagh says:

    K’wayseh Fletcher , mahdoum Fletcher , thank you excellency , we all love a little dreaming boost , again thank you , salamat.

  146. Zeina Khoury says:

    Mr Ambadador,

    I recently relocated to lebanon after living in Dubai for the past 3 years. I found Beirut depressing and hard to deal with from all aspects especially driving as Bchara mentioned. Thanks to your creative mind, I could now see the light at the end of the tunnel…Bchara am ready to help in the smile sticker distribution…

  147. Wafa says:

    Mr Ambassador
    Your generation in England are innocent of what your foreign office predecessors committed in this part of the world, right from the time of Selwain Lloyd, Lord Balfour, Bevan , Atlee and Churchill They ruled the area with France following the expulsion of the Otoman Empire. This is when Britain and France started playing chess and domino in the Middle East area ( known then as the Grand Syria ). You divided and ruled effectively. Palestine was placed under the British rule ( Mandate), until such a time the British were given a hard time by the underground terrorist movements of the Jews ( Stern, Haghana , Tsvei Leumi and two other movements) The former Prime Minister Menachim Begin was on Britain’s most wanted list. Yet Britain decided , following the King David’s Hotel massacare of many British Officers caused by the Jews underground movements, to leave Palestine in a mess, not only that but by having earlier facilitated the Migration of Jews from all across Europe to Palestine without really caring for the Palestinians ( Christians and Moslems ), as if Britain owned Palestine and donated it to the Jews, ignoring the rights of the Palestinians.

    The various British Ambassadors now realize the sins committed by Britain and trying to make peace! Do you remember the first high jacking of Aircrafts? It must have happened before you were born! Do you know why it was caused and by whom? It was carried out by a Palestinian Christian Doctor named Wadih Haddad. He did that because Golda Meir the former Prime Minster ( stronger than Margaret Thatcher! ) and her entourage declared to the European and US authorities that there are no Palestinians on this planet! To prove her wrong and to get the world attention he master minded and actioned the Hi jacking of TWA 707, the BOAC VC.10 and Swissair Coronado and blew them up in Jordan’s desert. Only then the World became aware of the Palestinian plight which is still in situ after 60 years since the Palestinian diaspora and it might continue for longer years.

    The issue here is the whole Middle East will continue to be unstable so long the Palestinian dilemma is not amicably resolved. The Palestinians are not Red Indians who were the origin of the United States of America. The Red Indians are currently contained in separate areas in the USA. The Palestinians will continue to debate and argue their case and will not accept any sort of settlements in other areas other than the origin of their own homeland. This might take years to achieve, but it will eventually happen. I am not a dreamer!

    I am confident that the various factions such as Hizbullah, Hamas, Al Qaedah ,and the high jacking of aeroplanes would not have been initiated or created if Britain, France , Europe and USA were fair with their treatment to people in the Middle East region and without being biased in certain issues. Naturally this is Politics which is fully entwined with Economy. I realize we have many Lunatics in the Middle east which is caused by their discontent with the current bickering by Political leaders who yearn for power and hardly care for their subjects.

    I may have drifted from responding accurately to your message but I felt you should know the root/origin of the current crisis in the area.

    Good Luck with your assignment in our lovely Lebanon….

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      You’re right Wafa, that many of the causes of the current situation are historical. I’ve spent a lot of time studying that history, and our role in it. I agree that resolving the Palestine/Israel question is the master key. But I would also say that we have to focus on solutions and practical proposals, not simply cast blame around men or empires which have long since passed away.

      • Roula M. says:

        Part of the solution can be found in a change of attitude, and the zionist entity with its US sponsor should be leaders in that attitude change. Their military strenght and international power puts them in a position that allows them to lead the world towards less wars, less destruction, less violence, less greed, and more fairness.

        I proposed in a previous post some positive moves the zionist entity can take that might lead to more peaceful relations. Maybe you dismissed them as unrealistic? But if so, wouldn’t your attitude mimic the negative attitudes many have had towards your post?

        I hope you take a second look at what I wrote and give it some thought. Since you are a diplomat, I suppose you ought to have a little power to make some difference.

        When the US stares at the Middle-East, it does so like a one eyed monster staring at this part of the globe with only one eye: that of a zionist. The other eye seems to have been obliterated or covered up with a pirate patch that doesn’t allow it to see, or feel any “Arab” pains, only ones from which they can make some gain. Who can change that? How?…

        In the 1975-90 war, many Lebanese were led to believe that if they crushed the Palestinians, their problems would be solved. Now, some of them are led to believe that if they crushed Hizballah, their problems will be solved. However, if it weren’t for Israel, Lebanon wouldn’t have suffered from a Palestinian or a Hizballah problem.

        The strategy in the Middle-East has been: Surrender Egypt, surrender Jordan, destroy Irak, surrender Lybia, destroy and surrender Lebanon and the Palestinians. Now we are witnessing a “destroy” Syria and an additional appeal to destroy Iran. All of them have one common denominator: Israel.

        Israel is the problem!

  148. Ark B says:

    So, I note you’re not expecting a promotion in the next 7 years.

  149. Nazih Halawy says:

    Dear Ambassador,
    As a Lebanese British, and had I been in Beirut today, I would have run to shake your hand warmly and firmly… Your optimistic and bright outlook for future Lebanon is encouraging… My wish is your insight comes true… Nevertheless, I will make sure on my next visit to Lebanon to come to Sky Bar and shake your hand… With best regards, Nazih Halawy

  150. Christina T says:

    Dear Mr. Ambassador,
    Thank you for your love for our country and your encouragement. I like what you said “Looking to outsiders for the answers is a habit we all need to break.”
    May we believe in our capacity to lead our country by ourselves, because we really can do it.
    Christina

  151. Wafa says:

    Have already made my comments…. Thank you…

  152. Salah D Salman MD says:

    Very interesting.
    Realistic? I am not sure.
    I like to look at the ideas presented as part of a project that needs to be planned and executed, rather than a romantic dream that happens or is imposed on us.
    -Women have to work hard to get all their rights which will never be free presents from Men.
    -Plans have to be established to get rid of the current omnipowerful politicians who cannot escape the responsibility of the present chaos.
    -The young have to become better & responsible citizens. Their potential power is so great. The internet needs to be mobilized
    -Current corrupt leaders have to be held accountable and put in jail if necessary.
    – A civil state has to be created. No excuses.
    -Religious parties have to be dissolved & banned.
    -Public education needs to be strengthened. Najib Abou Haider’s project is the most valid.
    Etc. etc. etc.
    Only then can the new Lebanon be created.
    Hard work, commitment, and courage are needed

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks Salah, sounds quite a manifesto. And I’m sure many people will agree with you on most of it. Good luck with your efforts.

  153. Mouna Moussi says:

    Great Article, for its spice and malice (if you know the song).
    I am already in 2020 and love this idea of a Lebanon made by us, the resilient ones who act as such hoping we’d outnumber the blind(s) and steer the wheel to a luminous Lebanon.
    I have a print of this article posted on the wall in the face of all Lebanese who dare to talk non sense!
    Thank you.

  154. Nathalie B. says:

    Many of us left Lebanon because we were living exactly the opposite You’re not lebanese and yet you’re dreaming of a better Lebanon.. I hope it’s contagious!
    Many of us desperately want what you wrote.. many of us just what to come home.
    Thank you for believing in our country.
    Nathalie.

  155. Nadim says:

    Excellent post. But it just reminded me of what Lebanon will never become, what Lebanon should and could have become. It also reminded me of what foreigners see in Lebanon and its potential and what the Lebanese repeatedly fail again and again to see. The Lebanon described above will never become reality. The Lebanese are too blinded by hatred for themselves and their country to be able to see what Mr. Fletcher have so rightly imaged.

  156. Sukna Rehayel says:

    This shouldn’t be considered a dream. People should consider it a goal. I for one will not thank anything or anyone until I know that I have been able to make a difference myself.

    Dear Mr. Ambassador,

    My name is Sukna Rehayel, I’m 20 years old and studying public relations in London. I lived in Beirut from when I was 6 to 18 and still go back every 3 months. I won’t speak on anybody else’s behalf, however I hope that whoever has loved Lebanon and experienced war and destruction first hand, would hope to see this become a true future.

    The words FED UP should be on everyone’s minds.

    I won’t write what is happening or what has happened because honestly, a majority of the world does not know where Lebanon is or the amount of potential for the country. For the country to move forward people need to learn how to forgive and older generations to stop teaching hate to the younger.

    I’m not an outsider looking in, I’m an insider looking out and I’m afraid that most people have only been given the option to look out and therefore leave.

    I’m young and I’m just one person but I know how to get a group together and I shouldn’t have to wait till I’m any older to be taken seriously or put plans into action.

    Please contact me on my email suknarehayel@gmail.com if you think the younger generation is as important if not more in the journey ahead.

    Best wishes,

    Sukna Rehayel

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thank you Sukna, this is encouraging to hear. We’re thinking about how to take forward all the incredible ideas and responses on this page, and will be in touch.

  157. Mazen Feghali says:

    Amazing article.

    As a Lebanese Canadian always thinking about coming back – your article gave me goose bumps. Love it. Hopefully we will be dancing together at sky bar.

  158. Raif Bitar says:

    Your Excellency,
    I would like to tell you that I admired Beirutopia.
    It was the only thing that I read, since a long time, that made me dream for a short while!
    Your sayings,excellency, are the dreams of every Lebanese, including me, which have all my parents outside Lebanon because of the current situation that is lasting since 1975. I am still hoping that your sayings will materialize in the near future, so that I will stay in the country I love.
    Thank you your excellency for making me, and I think lots of Lebanese, dream.
    Thank you again,
    Raif Bitar

  159. Alain Mayni says:

    Goosebumps!
    In 2020, I’ll be 32 and would love to go back to Beirut by then and raise a family in the above mentioned, utopian, country.
    Good luck for the Olympics Mr. Fletcher.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks Alain, how do you think we can make it a reality?

      • Alain Mayni says:

        Relying on our current politicians is a lost case; most of them are remnants of war and corruption became in their, their families’ and followers’ DNA.

        Also, many of the topics you described are regional and, despite my limited knowledge in this area, I can safely say that Lebanon didn’t have much of a say in shaping its history. It always seemed like we’re offering a battlefield for others and we’re easily influenced by regional changes.

        My best bet would be on technocrats, people who are experts in their fields and not politicians. We do have the human resources and this has been our best asset as proven by the success Lebanese have achieved abroad. offshore gas will definitely help but we need the right people to manage this; Technocrats.

        My second bet would be the private sector. Independent private sector. Not the minister’s nephew’s company.

        Mr. Fletcher, thanks for engaging in these conversations. I’ve seen some really good ideas and optimism in the above thread. It’d be great if you can showcase this thread, maybe our politicians could learn a thing or two on listening.

        • Tom Fletcher says:

          Thanks Alain. I agree that many of the challenges are regional – have a look at my earlier blog on ‘5 questions for Lebanon’. I also think you’re right on the vital role that must be played by technocrats and the private sector.

  160. Ramzi Salman says:

    A big sigh !!! …

    What’s touching and intriguing about your story is that it is so real and so fictitious at the same time !!! … the potential is so real, and yet the reality so disappointing …

    I loved your text Mr, Ambassador and I’m very happy to have you as the UK ambassador in our dear country Lebanon.

  161. zeena says:

    You Excellency, Don’t you think and based on your view on Lebanon future that first and formost “Hizb Allah” as a respected political party in Lebanon should be recognized by EU, UK and the USA a a legitimate political party and not a “terrorist” group. Thanks

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Interesting question. We in the UK don’t have contacts with Hizballah, but we recognise that it plays a legitimate political role in Lebanon, and we work with a government that includes Hizballah Ministers. Most EU partners have contacts. How our relationship with Hizballah evolves in the future depends above all on their actions and approach. There should be no cul de sacs in diplomacy.

      • zeena says:

        Thank you for your reply – although it did not answer my question. However, and again, I thank you for taking the time in replying to my question. I just do not comprehend a legitimate political party which have legitimate and democratically gained seats in the Lebanese Parliament, is listed as “terrorist” group – The irony and the double standard of “democracy” through the eyes of the western world when viewing the Middle East and the interests of Israel!
        By the way, I prefer Budha Bar to Sky Bar. See you there!!

        • Tom Fletcher says:

          Thanks Zeena. Its a fair question. Let me try to be a bit more clear. When it comes to Hizballah, the UK does regard the armed wing as having carried out attacks against civilians. There are many other examples of such a designation, not just involving the Middle East and enemies of Israel.

          But we also recognise that Hizballah represents a constituency in Lebanon, and has a right like other parties to play a role in Lebanese politics. As you’ll see from earlier blogs (eg ‘Running to Stand Still’), my position on Hizballah is not to blindly criticise all that they do, nor do I think that they should be marginalised. My hope is that they choose to pursue their interests through politics. Having worked on Northern Ireland (see another earlier blog), I don’t believe that there are any one way streets in diplomacy.

          See you in BB.

  162. Amin says:

    Mr. Ambassador, it is a pleasure to read your article and this should be adopted as a plan which every Lebanese should help accomplish. To the skeptics and critics, I say it may be utopia today but any future positive prospects for Lebanon should be what we all hope for.
    I am a Christian Maronite and have lived through most of the war in Lebanon. I used to justify the fighting with our fellow Lebanese from other religions and our foreign occupiers. The conclusion when it ended is; was it truly worth it and what did we accomplish? Nothing!
    We have a chance to make this country a better place.
    I read some politicians preaching that hezbollah should keep their weapons until the Lebanese army is able to face Israel. When would this happen? Never! Hezbollah’s weapons can never prevent the destruction of Lebanon by the Israeli army. When the circumstances would allow it, Iran will use them against Israel or Israel will repeat 2006 until Lebanon is ground zero.
    Another argument from these politicians is that the Palestinian refugees should leave. I ask these politicians and their partisans who hold a second passport, when they lived abroad in Europe or Canada, their first priority was to get the foreign passport which they hold to more than anything. So why do you want to deny this right to the Palestinians that were born in Lebanon? This is flagrant double standard. We are afraid of granting them citizenship because they are sunnis.
    The only hope for Lebanon is full fledge secularism applied at all levels of the nation. Get the priests and sheikhs out of politics and there will be nothing left to divide us as a people. We should not care at how many sunnis or shiaas there are. We should care about being one people and one nation.
    And then Beirutopia will be simply Beirut NOW!!!

  163. Vatche Beujekian says:

    Such a beautiful dream…
    Wish it will become true…

    you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…. :-)

    Thank you Mr. Ambassador…

  164. May T. says:

    Dear Mr.Ambassador,

    This is my only dream.
    If this dream is fulfilled my childrens dreams will be fulfilled.

    This Lebanon we want.

    Thank you.
    May

  165. W Haddad says:

    Beautiful words… Great dream…
    It’s sad to see that a non-Lebanese diplomat sees Lebanon by 2020 prospering and flourishing from the returns of the off-shore gas, while Lebanese politicians see bigger numbers in their bank accounts…
    This is our “dream Lebanon of 2020″; but seeing the performance of ALL Lebanese politicians, parties, sects (or whatever they are), since 2005 makes me cautious about letting myself dream that dream. We dreamt a lot since 2000 and all we got was disappointment.

  166. Chiren says:

    Dear Mr. Fletcher,

    Thank you for your kind word about the country I love. The dream you see for Lebanon a dream that I knew existed in my mind for a long time but could not have the strength to put it in words, a dream that existed in many of my Lebanese compatriots subconscious but could not be allowed to express it for fear of the other, reprisals or other reasons at the time. In the continuation of the dream you so well articulated, here is my dream from a Lebanese anonymous (would like to keep it that way):

    I have a dream of a Lebanon free of corruption, tyranny, death and destruction

    I have a dream of a Lebanon full of hope, wealth and prosperity

    I have a dream of a Lebanon welcoming the other no matter where they come from, hospitable in every sense with peace in their hearts

    I have a dream of a Lebanon based in secularism with “true” respect for every faith, religion and ethnicity

    I have a dream of a Lebanon where men are proud to have women as their partners and equals in society

    I have a dream of a Lebanon rid of racism, self-pity, pessimism and fatalistic way of seeing the future

    I have a dream of a Lebanon full of Lebanese citizens compassionate toward their other fellow men and women

    I have a dream of a Lebanon where the scars of war and evil have healed in the hearts of my countrymen

    I have a dream of a Lebanon where Lebanese act as one by their good deeds not only their words

    I have a dream of a Lebanon free of extremism, where moderates and all Lebanese fight for ideas not by killing, burning tires and assassinations but by the power of debate and mandates to be put forward for the future of Lebanon and the region

    I have a dream of a Lebanon where my elected representatives truly represents me and all other Lebanese not by their religious affiliations but more their plan and mission for the greater good

    I have a dream where all Lebanese homes have a Lebanese flag and only a Lebanese fly high and with pride

    I have a dream of Lebanon where Lebanese is not synonymous with terrorists and partygoers but synonymous with brainpower, technology, progress, achievements and enlightenment

    I have a dream of a Lebanon where finally its dark history is put to rest by all Lebanese and remembered for what it is only history so that the future is allowed to be bright

    I have a dream of a Lebanon at peace with all of its neighbors

    I have a dream where I would stop weeping every Feb14 for all the martyrs that have died for expressing their ideals and their wish to move forward but remember them in honor and happiness for the nice future they allowed us to have. And no I am not affiliated to any political party or religion currently in Lebanon but I am Sunni-, Christian-, Shia-, Druze-, Jew-, African-, French-, Australian-, American-, Armenian-, Canadian-, Brazilian-, Swedish-, Dutch-, German-, English-, Spanish, Portuguese, Camerounais, Cote d’Ivoirian, Nigerian, Egyptian-, Tunisian-, GCC-, Saudi- (and many others) and above all Lebanese longing to come back one day in this new Lebanon…

    And then I woke up… to my surprise; the miracle has happened it was reality 2020 ☺

  167. Wafa says:

    Mr Ambassador
    What you are expressing is that let us forget what happened in the past! That is fine for people who are enjoying a proper shelter and a country to resort to when they are in trouble! What will happen to those Palestinians whose majority are still living in tents with Keys of their homes in their hand! Just tell them banish from this Earth because people in England who made mistakes and caused your plight are no longer living or in power!!!
    At least Britain, who initiated their plight should take a more effective, honest and active role to ask the State of Israel to honor at least one of the 124 resolutions issued by the UN! Mr Ambassador the Palestinians who are in camps in Lebanon causing the Government a lot of trouble due to their possession of arms would not have been there if their country , Palestine , was not donated by Britain to the Jewish people. I worked for a major British company for 28 years and very well know how diplomatic the British in general can be, with due respect , particularly when they are at fault ! It is a great shame that we in the Arab world do not have a dedicated and patriotic leader to lead by example this entire Middle East , this I call a dream , like yours for Lebanon! Obviously , the western World and the USA would rather see a fragmented Middle East to suit their political agendas. I have made a number of addresses talking about the cause of our current crisis in the Middle East. I am not a Politician, far from this, but I lived throughout the Middle East at its hey-days and have learnt and witnessed the political detoriration through the intervention of the outside powers with of course the support of some of our stooges we, unfortunately bow for in the Middle East.
    Good Luck with your mission and Agenda.

    • zeena says:

      Wafa, I like “good luck with your agenda”! Did you notice now Mr. Hague is so willing and ready to train the “Lebanese military”?!! And then Mr. Hague never at any point was critical of Israel and its arbitrary attacks on Lebanon etc..
      Talking about Agenda! The problem with us the “Arabs” we are emotional, soft-heart, forget easily, and do not see beyond the surface. We forgot that it was Britain who gave the “Balfour promise” and who donated Palestine to create the state of Israel. We forgot the ill support of the UK government when it comes to Palestinians and Arabs in general, and we forgot all the reckless, blind and unconditional support Mr. Hague gives to Israel, we forget all of that and believe in a dream written by HMA!

      • Tom Fletcher says:

        Hello Zeena, is your point that we should not be training the Lebanese military, given our history? Or just that you believe that all the problems of the region are our fault?

        • zeena says:

          Your Excellency, of course not. But the seeds flourished poisonous fruits which the ME is still eating from involuntarily.
          I have heard of the proverb “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” but never heard of “the friend of my enemy is my friend”.
          Apart from politic,I do love Brits. I love their witty sense of humor and their obsession with the Royal family – both very entertaining!
          Hope you will have a pleasant sejour in Lebanon…

          • zeena says:

            Your Excellency, I forgot to add that my love to Brits increased because of Adele. She is just HM Ambassador in her own way. I adore her. She is “Um Kalthoum” of Egypt and “Fairuz” of Lebanon….
            Mabrouk all the Oscars..

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks Wafa, we do indeed ask Israel to honour UN resolutions, including 242, 425.

  168. Lababidi says:

    I pride myself…that my emotions are not hidden neither to myself nor to my loved ones, valued friends and in this article to the person of the author of the report…….from the second line, and all after, I was crying all through – not only because it is a masterpiece of what could and maybe should happen by coaching for it (as Ambassador Fletcher is trying to do)……..this is my own feeling that this scenario is possible and could be truly an achievable future destiny of Lebanon and all the doubtful s who have lost hope (on top of them Fady Khoury who wants to build the St Georges Hotel on the ruins of Solidere) – should have the shame of not seeing that they have a jewel of opportune possibilities which they dismiss and ignore – instead of waking up to the truly achievable assumption dream of Ambassador Fletcher and start working and relentlessly aiming for it…Politicians and Citizens alike……

  169. Michel-Ange Medlej says:

    Thank you for the Roadmap Your Excellency,
    I truly hope you are right when it comes to international politics…
    Can’t stay long… I’ve got to go work on those realistic goals set for our country, part of which your successor is talking about in 2020.
    Friendly advise: Better start working on those Olympics! You wouldn’t want to be the reason we delay the centenary festivities :)
    Cheers!

  170. Anthony Shillingford says:

    Tom
    Well done. Vision is needed rather than short term solutions. As the song goes accentuate the positives eliminate the negatives. Churchill would have known that too. Suzanne and I visited Chartwell yesterday to see the exhibition of family portraits going back to first Duke of Marlborough. The tradition runs true from the start.
    Love to family
    Anthony

  171. Anis makdisi says:

    When on the road the cars in the left lane try to make a right turn and the ones in the Right lane go left. Nobody gives way.

    I was told that a man was granted the opportunity to see Heaven and Hell. He first goes to Heaven where he sees many fine dressed people around a huge table. On the table is the finest food, fruits, and all manner of luxury. What was strange was that each person had meter long utensils.The food could not be touched by hand but only by the utensils.
    He then goes down to Hell where he is shocked by exactly the same scene. How can this be he asks the angel. The angel replies that the only difference is that in Hell each person is only trying to feed themselves, whereas in Heaven each is feeding each other.

  172. Tarek Selbak says:

    Sir,

    Concerning the Lebanese-Israeli peace agreement, I was wondering if the Brits would accept forming a peace treaty with a state they consider a Nazi or an Apartheid one. Maybe it was the ‘dream’ of some foreign ambassador that the British and Nazis of Germany should forget their differences and find peace. Beirutopia isn’t much of a dream because it isn’t very different from mainstream ideas or hopes for the region from people who would like the Arab-Israeli conflict to look like its a conflict between two equal sides – obviously doing Israel the favour in such a comparison. Israel is an aggressor and an occupier and the Palestinians are the occupied; and the only peace that will ever take place is when the aggressor n the region, the side that is not bothered with peace – region is rid of this Nazi-Apartheid state. Just like there could be no peace with Vichy France or Nazi Germany if those two survived the second world war.

    I’d really like to recommend “The Gun and the Olive Branch” in its third edition by David Hirst, and “Bad News from Israel” by Greg Philo from the Glasgow Media Group.

    As for the Syrian elections, the newly appointed Syrian president chosen by the majority of Syrians, in internationally observed unrigged elections, might very well be Bashar AlAsad.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Dear Tarek, I think that given the holocaust it is offensive to many to call Israel a Nazi state. I’m all up for having a debate, and I agree with you that it there are many examples where the calls for peace are one-sided. The UK recognises that the West Bank is Occupied Territory. But we’ll get nowhere if we use labels like “Nazi”, just as we get nowhere when Israel labels opponents “terrorists”.

      The Hirst book is indeed excellent.

      Interesting point on Syrian elections – I hope we get the chance to see what would happen in a genuinely free election in Syria.

  173. Wafa says:

    Mr Ambassador

    I read your brief reply to my detailed two e.mails. With due respect, Britain who is the MAIN cause and culprit of the plight are not doing enough with Israel to reason with the situation and I dare say your Governments both Conservative and or Labor are hypnotized by Israel. To say it candidly Britain and many of the western powers, not forgetting the USA are terrified and scared by Israel. Obviously, you as a Diplomat representing H.Ms Government would object and disagree with my statement and by those made logically and fairly.
    Your response to Tareq is another selfish and biased way when you indicate that Israel is not a NAZI state. Remember, what I mentioned to you in my first/second e.mail that Israel’s Five underground Movements (terrorist) formed what is now Israel’s army. Do you know where did they get their sophisticated arms? Following the second world war Britain sold all its military equipment which they used in El Alamain under Field Marshal Montgomery for a mere sum of GBP.One Million. Do you remember how they butchered the complete inhabitants of Deir Yassin Village. Do you remember what they did in Lebanon at the Sabra and Chatila Camps?
    Why do you pretend its old history? The terrorists that Israel and most of the European name the Palestinians, are not terrorist ; instead they are RESISTANCE movement who are claiming their original homeland. Mr Ambassador. Mr Hague recent visit to lovely Lebanon extending help with the Military training is another hippocratical approach which eventually Lebanon have to pay a price that will eventually be announced by Britain. You benefited a substantial price when you liberated Libya from the ruling of the tyrant Ghaddafi.
    I do not blame you for not being more open and candid with your true feelings and opinion! You have started the DREAM issue , which I assure you could turn to be a nightmare with the flow of logical response you will continue to receive that might not appease you!
    Good Luck again.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Dear Wafa. I suspect that we won’t get far with this discussion. Whatever I say, you will want to blame all the region’s problems on Britain. My aim with this article was not to start a debate about historical responsibility, not that I deny that is an important debate, but to start a conversation about how we get out of this corner.

      Just on a few of the statements.

      1. The UK does not make policy under the fear or hypnotism of Israel (though I admit that they do seek to exert serious pressure on our policy making).
      2. I would not for a moment belittle or justify the crimes of Deir Yassin and Sabra and Chatila. See previous blogs.
      3. I do not label the Palestinians as as a whole as terrorists. Far from it (see previous blogs/speeches).
      4. I think you’re suggesting that our support to the Lebanese army is some kind of conspiracy? That’s just nuts.

      If we were as cunning and conspiratorial as you suggest, we would still have an empire.

      I really don’t object to you having your views – you have every right too, and to express them. But if we kill every positive-minded discussion with this kind of debate, we’ll stay stuck. Better to try to identify solutions. As I’ve said all the way through these blogposts, the more those solutions are driven by the Lebanese rather than outsiders, the better.

      I’m now breaking the first rule of social media, which is not to get sidetracked by the wrong arguments. So good night and good luck!

  174. Saad Mattar, London says:

    Evidently, His Excellency has been smoking first class produce of the Bekaa valley/Baalbek region.

  175. Joseph Salameh says:

    Thank you Mr. Ambassador,

    You lit a candle in our darkness.
    Your wonderful article is
    A wish In the heart of every normal lebanese citizen
    A thought in his mind
    A dream in his imagination
    A guide to his day to day life

    But in the terrible reality of the public space,
    this utopia will never come to life
    not in a thousand years!!

    “De la disparition du passé, on se console facilement;
    c’est de la disparition de l’avenir qu’on ne se remet pas.”
    Amin Maalouf, Les Désorientés, p. 67

  176. Joseph Salameh says:

    Faut-il ” imaginer Sisyphe heureux” like Camus wrote?

  177. Wafa says:

    Mr Ambassador

    I assure you I never insinuated that Britain , the great country that I have always loved and considered a second home ( dating back to 1950 ) is contemplating on a conspiracy through offering a military training in Lebanon! I said there is a price to everything that the super power offer to do as has been experienced in a number of Middle Eastern Countries. I can enumerate a number of cases which might fuel further arguments/debate! I have even witnessed a sensitive meeting between a Government in the Gulf with Mrs Margret Thatcher, details of which are not for disclosure!
    In regard to my statement about the Palestinian being labeled as Terrorist, I openly said that Israel and MOST of the European countries and did not specifically indicate Britain .

    On the whole I admire your openness and readiness in allowing time to respond to a number of diversified issues. This proves your tolerance.
    I really look forward to the pleasure of meeting with you when next in Beirut, provided that you do not think of me being an inflexible/adamant person with my ideas/views.
    Good night and God bless.

  178. Fady Salameh says:

    Dear Excellency,

    Lebanon, will never, never and never raise from its fallen circuit. to see social improvement, or political reconciliation, never, because lebanese leaders, now and for 1 million year ahead are and will be corrupted. why, because , 1st: power is temptational, and 2nd: power leads to corruption. every single lebanese who would be in power would automatically be corrupted and would only think for him and for his relatives and his friends . corruption means to fill there pocket of money. And corruption means, because they are in the authority, they always are right, and never have obligations towards the others. others have obligations to them. and because of this equation, I WILL ALWAYS SAY: POOR LEBANON. why I am saying all this? because I once I was at the Lebanese Athletics Federation, (for 10 years) 2003-2013, and I lived and felt all that disgusting lebanese mentality. don’t bother yourself, or dream about a positive future of Lebanon, for not to be deceived. IN HISTORY OF LEBANON, ONLY ONE MAN COULD HAVE THE CHANCE TO REBUILT LEBANON, IN ALL ITS FIELD: ECONOMICS, SOCIAL, TOURISTICS, EDUCATION, ADMINISTRATIVE…… IT WAS PRESIDENT BACHIR GEMAYEL.

    With all my respect. CIAO

  179. HAGOP SULAHIAN says:

    Dear Tom,
    I truly believe that things happen for a reason even though sometimes it is not an obvious or a tangible one. I say this because I find it very striking that when you were writing your blog two things happened with me almost at the same time, within the span of three days. The 1st was (as you know) Lena and I were hosted by Mrs. Mona Hamzeh as guests on her show of “Talk of the Town” alias “ Hadith al Balad” and the 2nd was the 1st AUB Alumni Art Expo.
    I do not know what triggered me to create a painting as a gift to the show which was basically the Lebanese flag with the Lebanese Cedar tree in the center depicted in Arabic calligraphy that actually said “ Hadith Al Balad” which simply could be interpreted as saying “Hey, folks the whole country has become the talk of the town and isn’t it about time that we get together and earnestly talk about where do we go from here…….” I think Mona was very quick to capture the message as she said to me “This is by far the best art piece with a clear message that this program has ever received…..and I thank you for it.”
    Two days after the talk show we had the AUB art expo and I had no intention of exhibiting any of my earlier works so in one night session I created a diptych which I entitled “Intrepid fantasy-2” which you had a glimpse of and was simply a depiction of a huge glowing sun “intimidatingly” close to what seemed to be a fragile and lonely “blue earth”. Which opened the door to many interpretations spanning from the global to the local. Being able to navigate dangerously close and tap on the huge source of energy without endangering our existence. A tight rope walk? Maybe, but certainly with enough “courage” not “greed” such a fantasy could be made into a reality.
    Strangely both were the results of emotional outbursts that led me to abandon the use of any paint brushes and use an old credit card instead.
    As I read “Beirutopia” the title of my art piece came to my mind. Because going through so many of the comments, your blog seemed like an “Intrepid Fantasy-2020” to so many.
    But what is wrong in having a dream or a fantasy? I think the real problem would be when we cease having one and give up working towards its realization.
    For once we came across a politician who dared to express his thoughts that were “outside the box” but actually coincided with the secret hopes, aspirations and dreams of every honest Lebanese who was too afraid to come out in the open and talk about them fearing of being labeled as “someone left with nothing but unrealistic fantasies” fearing that all this would be a short lived sweet dream only to wake up the next day to face the harsh realities of bitter disappointment. If one would count the number of times we were filled with hopes of a brighter future, living in a country of democracy, rule of law, peace and prosperity and the number of times that we got bitterly disappointed by having those dreams shattered then maybe you would understand the underlying cause and fear of having such dreams or fantasies.
    The key issue is not having the fantasy or the dream but it is the fact that most of us have grown impatient and do not realize that change which is inevitable does not come at the pace we desire.
    What you proposed filled our aspiration tanks with the necessary fuel, it is up to us to really get those engines started to start the long journey forward.

    Hagop Sulahian

  180. Berge says:

    Mr. Fletcher, i am not really impressed of encouraged or anything by these words.

    Reason: It does not point the painful reasons why its not like that today. It’s like a crash dummy sequence of events.

    Agreement with Israel is not an event, it’s basic but forbidden. Actually every improvement in Lebanon imaginable is a very normal thing in any city, but forbidden.

    The Lebanese engineers built most of the Arabian Gulf and still are. If they can do that abroad they can do it here.

    As a critic without losing respect I say it’s a waste of space.
    It’s a very immature way to predict something forbidden, not unqualified to be executed.

    In the end there is no problem highlighted nor is there
    a solution. Skipping the crucial parts helps no one.

    This is a personal PR/brand building document, meant to inflame some emotions, not true constructive journalism.
    Still it’s good somebody foreign bothered.

    I have studied the Middle East war like few have, digging CIA docs
    from the 70s, 80s, 90s. Took me 10+ yrs to understand the hidden processor behind all, and I lived through most of the war.

    I can tell you if you like but i guess you know ….. This sounds like journalistic imperialism not utopia. Actually whoever knows in detail the hidden does not call it utopia.

    Good luck

    the bad stuff. If you want i will tell you …… exactly why, point by point, without missing a day or war or instability in the Lebanon events.

  181. Saad says:

    True: Far fetched dreams but better dream than stand still and be negative/sarcastic as most.
    History teaches us a lesson but never indicative of the future especially in the world of global politics…
    Tom am sure you meant well. The sad thing is that it seems you love Lebanon more than many Lebanese that lost faith in this country…as revealed in previous blogs.

  182. Anis Makdisi says:

    Dear Ambassador,

    When I read through all the responses I feel a profound sadness that you are so optimistic and the majority of Lebanese, including myself, have little hope of any changes. Please do not judge us harshly. Many have lived trough our terrible civil war ( events) and expected so much more. You are a voice in the wilderness. I do hope you will have the opportunity to have frank discussions with our tormentors.

  183. Dear Tom Fletcher. Well, we can say that it is a great opportunity for us to have an ambassador like you in Lebanon. For the rest and for more details, you can read my article on my blog. Good luck.

  184. The direct link for the article. In French.
    « Beirutopia ou le rêve délirant de l’ambassadeur britannique à Beyrouth ! » Par Bakhos Baalbaki.

    http://impressionsdulibanetdumonde.blogspot.fr/2013/02/beirutopia-ou-le-reve-delirant-de.html

  185. Your love and optimism of Lebanon is quite commendable. I wish I could say half as much of some of the incompetent and corrupt people in prominent positions in this country.

    I sincerely hope your predictions, via your successor, come true. this is truly a beautiful country, if only…….( so many only(s) that I wouldn’t like to start enumerating for fear of missing some!!!).

    nevertheless, I join you in your dream.

    Cheers,

    BK

    • Hello Mr Fletcher,

      Following is a comment addressed to me which I received from my daughter Juana who presently lives in Sydney/Australia.
      I thought you might like to read her take on your article.

      “Dad – what a great article. Thanks so much for sharing.

      I think the article is a fantastic projection of hope and a dream of what could be. Dream big, right?

      I don’t believe Tom Fletcher himself believes that such a reality is in fact possible to the extent his “predecessor” describes, but I am in admiration of the man for posting something so positive and hopeful compared to the countless depressing articles I read about Lebanon via news, mail etc…

      I am a firm believer that the world is what we make it and how we see it. It is a projection of our collective conscious or unconscious in most cases (such as lebanon) and the fact that this man can write something so beautiful and conscious about such an unconscious country brings a tear to my eye. Honestly, I am an optimist and a dreamer and reading that article, I could even see the country he was describing and I could see the city with it’s rail system and pedestrian walkways a bit like venice or amsterdam….

      I would move back to a lebanon like that in a heartbeat and be proud to say I am lebanese.

      I also liked your comment dad…. caring and to the point.

      I was reading some of the other comments and was cracking up. So many people were almost angry at Tom for writing something so out of this world… almost as though having a lebanon that beautiful was an offense to their staunchly held notions of seperatism and anger. Almost as though their identity had been robbed from them… how sad to think that a whole generation of lebanese base their sense of self around conflit, confrontation and division. No wonder why the nation is so damaged.

      Yes, lebanon has a long way to go to fit such a vision, as does the rest of the world, but hell, if i am going to dream, id rather dream beautiful than ugly… who knows, if enough people dream that way, we could have a very different Lebanon and a very different world!

      xxx”

      • Sukna Rehayel says:

        Beautiful.

      • Tom Fletcher says:

        Dear Berge, Thank you so much for sharing Juana’s response. It is more eloquent by far than the original blogpost, and more than almost anything I’ve read since getting here demonstrates for me why Lebanon is an idea worth fighting for. I look forward to a time when people like Juana come back to build the country they deserve. Best wishes to you both.

  186. ABBOUCHE/TARBOUCHE says:

    Dear Excellency,
    Are you kidding us??

    You know very well, that the major base to see a LEBANON, like you are saying, all political parties re conciliated, and all the fields rebuild, and not to be no more an utopia, Lebanon should signe a peace treaty with Israel.
    Long time ago I was, since 1982-1983, claming that Lebanon should signe a peace treaty with Israel, but now I have come to the reality.
    How Lebanon who fought in 1976 till 1982 the palestinian occupation of its territory could signe a peace treaty with Israel, another occupying belligerent to the land of Palestine. Its completely a nonsense.
    Fighting an occupant and in another side signing a peace treaty with another occupant.
    Its very funny…………………………………
    One and finall question:
    Why do not the western countries armed strongly the Lebanese army with Fighter jets, and othet sophisticated missiles?
    1- To fight a terrible milicia named : Hezbollah, and you know very well, that a sovereign Country, doesn’t have a milicia inside its own territoriy.
    2- Because, you know very well that Hezbollah was created by Israel, and by the way, western countries can’t armed Lebanon without the permission of Israel.

    Happy holidays in Lebanon, Dear Excellency.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      My point is that a genuine peace deal with the neighbours would help deliver the stability Lebanon needs, if it removed the threats against Lebanon that have been such a feature of recent decades. What’s the alternative?
      We give significant support to the Lebanese Army, and do not ask the permission of Israel or anyone else to do so.

  187. ABBOUCHE/TARBOUCHE says:

    One more thing,

    Excellency , you are young and sympathic.

    Or Ironic ?

    I preffer seeing you by the first qualification.

  188. Karen K says:

    Dear Mr. Fletcher,

    The following was written by :W.M. Thomson, Protestant minister, in «The Land and the Book» and was published in London in 1870.

    «Lebanon has about 400,000 inhabitants, gathered into more than six hundred towns, villages and hamlets…

    The various religions and sects live together, and practice their conflicting superstitions in close proximity, but the people do not coalesce into one homogeneous community, nor do they regard each other with fraternal feelings. The Sunnites excommunicate the Shiites – both hate the Druze, and all three detest the Nusairiyeh. The Maronites have no particular love for anybody and, in turn, are disliked by all. The Greeks cannot endure the Greek Catholics – all despise the Jews. And the same remarks apply to the minor divisions of this land. There is no common bond of union.
    Society has no continuous strata underlying it, which can be opened and worked for the general benefit of all, but an endless number of dislocated fragments, faults, and dikes, by which the masses are tilted up in hopeless confusion, and lie at every conceivable angle of antagonism to each other. The omnific Spirit that brooded over primeval chaos can alone bring order out of such confusion, and reduce these conflicting elements into peace and concord.

    …No other country in the world, I presume, has such a multiplicity of antagonistic races ; and herein lies the greatest obstacle to any general and permanent amelioration and improvement of their condition, character, and prospects.
    They can never form one united people, never combine for any important religious or political purpose ; and will therefore remain weak, incapable of self-government, and exposed to the invasions and oppressions of foreigners.
    Thus it has been, is now, and must long continue to be – a people divided, meted out, and trodden down. »

    Thank you for writing a different version of what Lebanon is and what it could be; unfortunately, I still think we are closer to the reality described by W. Thomson.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks Karen, I hadn’t seen that before. Our diplomatic archives are also full of reports saying that Lebanon can never work. There’s no doubt that as a country and an economy, it defies logic! But I’m yet to be convinced that it can’t succeed.

  189. Hb says:

    Education is the key to social and civic responsibility, the rest follows!

  190. Samar Hawa says:

    Very nicely put! I wish we had more Lebanese politicians like you! I used to have many dreams and hopes for Lebanon. What scares me now is that my only wish is that we don’t go backwards anymore!

  191. Dima says:

    Mr. Fletcher,
    I’m very interested to know why the UK extradated sheikh Omar Bakri, its citizen, back to Lebanon, after all he was condemned for. Couldn’t it have kept him in its jails?
    Do you by chance know what he is up to in Lebanon?
    And you make a fixation out of Hizbullah?
    Do you know if you’ll be able to finish your mandate in Lebanon without having to flee by sea, from the Jounieh port?
    Thank you for giving clear answers to all these questions.

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thanks Dima, we do indeed follow closely the activities of extremists, and are not ‘fixated’ by Hizballah alone.

      As to whether I’ll have to flee by sea from Jounieh, I very much hope not. Our entire effort is focused on Lebanese stability. The challenges are immense.

  192. Karl Nader says:

    Dear Ambassador,

    I returned to Lebanon in 2005 after over 20 years growing up in Europe, and the UK. I returned hoping that people will evolve, fighting will disappear, bickering will vanish, political debates would center around education, healthcare, and fighting poverty, traffic lights would be respected, beaches would be clean,… I was so convinced of Beirutopia, that people made fun of my optimism, stubbornness, and – my desire for change.

    Within a couple of years I came to the conclusion that my panglossianism was to no avail. Change can only be driven from the top, and unless a national cleansing of this miserable country’s leadership takes place, things will remain as-is: corrupt, filthy, poor, and repelling.

    Of course – there is still hope; until then I will continue to do my part!

  193. afaf says:

    Sir
    Reading Beirutopia was such a pleasure. You have reminded me that Beirut is a city worth fighting for and Lebanon is a country worth dreaming of. I propose Tom Fletcher as the new secretary for the united Nations.

  194. Mohamad Rayes says:

    Great dream, wish we could last till 2020 to be able to see that, specially with what’s happening around us.
    In any case, it’s great dream, thanks your excellency.

  195. Souheil says:

    Excellent vision of how things could be, but as with any vision, realization depends on strategy, and eventually implementation where the devil is in the details.

    If the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, then the Lebanese are not out of the woods, yet. We all know what Lebanon’s competitive advantages are (add to that Oil & Gas now), so yes, the 2020 vision could indeed become a reality, but it’s highly unlikely because the stakeholders aren’t ready yet. The problem with the evolution of nations is that it’s painfully slow. I hope the next generations will be able to enjoy what we’ve had to fight so hard for since 1975.

  196. Josephine Canaan, Neda Cassia, Elodie Finestres, Nardine Suwaida says:

    Dear Mr. Fletcher,

    We are a group of translators, about to graduate from Saint Joseph University. We have come across your blog post “Beirutopia”, and it was quite dear to us to see that a foreigner would imagine such a bright future for Lebanon. Therefore, we took the initiative of translating the entire text into French, and it was quite a challenge!
    Together we worked on a unified version, that we will be glad to send you. After your consent, we would like to publish it on our student blog that will be launched very soon.
    We are looking forward to hearing from you or, hopefully, meeting with you. Thank you in advance.

    Josephine Canaan, Neda Cassia, Elodie Finestres, Nardine Suwaida

    • Tom Fletcher says:

      Thank you very much indeed for taking the time and trouble to do that. I would be keen to see the translation. Best wishes and good luck with your studies,

  197. Its such as you read my thoughts! You seem to know so much about this, like you wrote the guide in it or something. I feel that you can do with a few p.c. to power the message house a bit, but instead of that, this is magnificent blog. A fantastic read. I’ll definitely be back.

  198. Kazem Al-Khalil Jr. says:

    Your Excellency

    Let me start off by simply saying….WOW !!!

    You made most of us dream a dream that we had never dared dream of before.

    Your insight and understanding of Lebanon’s panache is impressive. It is quite obvious you are a good friend to Lebanon, all of Lebanon in it’s different factions, and we are lucky to have thoughtful friends such as yourself. I only wish you could spread and share your insight of our country and region with others that you come across, so as they may look at us in the same light in which you do.

    A very grateful citizen of Lebanon, yours truly
    Kazem Al-Khalil Jr.

  199. Whats up! I just wish to give a huge thumbs up for the good data you’ve gotten right here on this post. I might be coming again to your blog for extra soon..

  200. Elias says:

    As a member of the Lebanese diaspora, this is the vision of Lebanon that I dream of. Many of my generation (i’m 24) are very pessimistic and will read this beautiful article and laugh and call you crazy, but I’m just filled with joy and optimism. Lebanon has so much potential, so much resources, so much history. Once the Syrian civil war ends, and once Israel and Palestine have peace, I think Lebanon will rise…I think sectarianism is in it’s final years, my generation is open minded, my generation is secular, we deserve a country that reflects us, not one that reflects our parents,
    thank you again for your work

  201. Said says:

    Dear Tom,
    I have just come across your blog and thus this entry.
    I am really sorry to have not discovered it earlier.
    I left Lebanon in 1975 the year of my birth with my parents and ever since I am living abroad. I go back there for vacation, and try to tell my children about Lebanon and its greatness. This however is really difficult as my children also watch the news and see what’s happening there.
    All throught these years, I have wondered why is Lebanon so resilient to the challenges. And I finally understand that the Lebanese people are often so optimistic and always think of the better even when everything around us looks so dark.
    Congratulations Tom, you too have shown yourself to be an expert on Lebanese affairs while at the same time being very optimistic yourself.
    I hope that at least a part of what you wrote comes true. The Olympics being not the least important :)
    For the meantime I say You and I have our Lebanon and all the others have theirs.

  202. Harry says:

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  203. melissa iskandar says:

    Dear Mr. Ambassador,

    As a university student, I have always been looking at our country in a disappointed way, hearing our parents’ stories about the history of our country and seeing what has been happening for a while now; your article made me smile. I am very happy to have you here in our country, and very astonished by your hopeful thoughts about Lebanon. We are the future of this country and hopefully we will still be alive to witness the rise of Lebanon.

    Thank you

  204. Sam Matta says:

    Mr Fletcher

    I’m not usually a naive optimist but this actually brought tears to my eyes. How I wish this to be our future. I honestly see no reason why it shouldn’t.

    The country is bruised but not broken. Only the Lebanese can make it happen. Only they have to ability to see it through. All they have to do is see each other as fellow human beings with a common goal and a common dream. A better life and a better future is surely what they all agree on.

    You know I was asking myself and wondering how you might have felt when it was decided that you represent your country in mine. Whether you were disappointed by the decision or whether it excited you. Honestly I don’t think it matters because it is clear that Lebanon seems to challenge, baffle and fascinate you all at the same time. Being a British Lebanese I have the urge to say that you are making your country proud and long may that last.

    Today I do not want to be a realist. Today I want to dream of the country you describe and for that I thank you.

    All the very best to you and yours

    Sam

  205. […] a recent post that appeared on the FCO blogs, British Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher thought to imagine a […]

  206. Bassel Akar says:

    Dear Mr Tom Fletcher,

    I believe in utopias. They give vision and direction. I am an academic and my research and work on education reform in Lebanon is grounded in the ‘perfect’ picture of students debating in classrooms and ensuring the provisions and protection of human rights. Your Beirutopia is warm, tense, assertive and real.

    With proper support from the Ministry of Funny Walks, I have full confidence in you wearing the two golds by 2020. Bolt, step aside.

    With best wishes,

    Bassel

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  208. Rosemarie says:

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  209. Nellie says:

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  211. Vickie says:

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