The former British Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher has achieved a rare distinction among those who have recently left their jobs: his resignation letter, posted on his blog in July, went viral.  In it, he recounts the many contradictions about life in Lebanon (and, of course, the best welcome offer he ever received—you can read more about that below.) Fletcher sat down with Jim Braude and Margery Eagan to weigh in on his life as a diplomat and the challenges facing the Middle East today.

On the stereotypes about the "rarified" world of ambassadors

"There is this stereotype, particularly of British ambassadors, particularly here in the States, that we’re kind of swanning around, drinking champagne, listening to string quartets and eating Ferrero Roche chocolates. I wish in many ways it was like that. But the reality is we’ve got to be actually out there on the ground trying to change thing, trying to make things better. You can’t do that behind a wall of paraphernalia and protocol."

On the most interesting offer he ever received as an ambassador

"Basically, the Lebanese are extraordinarily generous. Anyone who knows Lebanese people knows this. You get all sorts of lovely offers. When you’re in diplomacy, when you're in government, there’s a limit to what you receive to make sure you can’t be compromised in any way. This surgeon came up to me early on and said ‘we love what you're doing, welcome to our country. I’m a cosmetic surgeon, I’d love to give you a bit of help.' I said, 'What do you mean?' He said, 'I can give you a buttock lift.' I was stunned. There is nothing in the rule book to help you answer that sort of question. But it turned out the cost would exceed 140 UK pounds, which is our limit. So I turned it down.

I thought for a while about just getting one of them done, But I realized that probably wasn’t a good luck either. So I just had to thank him and move on."

On choosing his post in Lebanon

"When I left #10, when I left Downing St, our Prime Minister’s office, they said you can pretty much pick where you want to go. I said, 'it’s got to be Lebanon.' They kept saying: 'you must be joking. Do you have a death wish?' I kept insisting on Lebanon. It’s because I feel this really is a front line in the arguments we’re having now for coexistence around the world. It's where they’re trying to find ways to live together between different confessions, different religions. They’re right on that battle line between east and west at the moment. That’s where I felt I should be as a diplomat. "

On the Syrian refugee crisis  

"We were all overwhelmed. I remember sitting down with a U.N. official four years ago and she said, 'We can cope until we hit 10,000 refugees.' Eighteen months after that, we were getting 10,000 a week. It's actually more like 1 in 3 people in the country now is a refugee. It's like every Canadian moving to America, or every American moving to China. These numbers are staggering, and it puts an enormous strain on society and on the economy. They're struggling. They've shown enormous generosity. You have to hand it to them. We lecture them a lot about the need to take in more refugees and fulfill their humanitarian obligations, but in communities throughout Lebanon, throughout Jordan, throughout Turkey, they're basically housing, clothing, teaching these refugees. That kind of number of refugees would transform our societies, destroy our societies, probably. But they've managed to absorb it. But how many can you take?"

To hear more from Ambassador Tom Fletcher, tune in to Boston Public Radio above.