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November 21st, 2012
06:59 PM ET

Letters to the President #1402: 'Cease-fire'

Reporter's Note: President Obama is no doubt relieved to hear news of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas after some violent days. He may also be relieved to find my daily letter to the White House awaiting him.

Dear Mr. President,

It certainly seems good news that the folks over on the edge of the Mediterranean are ready to put down their guns for a bit. Sure, a cease-fire is not a lasting solution, but when people are already shooting at each other, anything that can make them holster their pistols is a good thing.

Of course, the fact that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was part of the process could also bode well for America. Ever since your early overtures to the Muslim world about better relations and a new age of cooperation, there have not been many positive headlines for the U.S. over there. The Arab Spring seemed to happen largely on its own. Yes, we were cheerleaders of a sort, but not much more. And while some big bad leaders such as Ghadafi were toppled, we didn’t seem to be exactly the point of the spear in those operations…but rather more like the trailing feathers on an arrow: Offering some guidance and support, but not exactly the business end of things.

And yet here comes a small triumph. Nice to see.

Starting fights is easy and often wrapped in a misplaced glory. In ancient days, epic poems were written about the exploits of warriors. Songs were composed to chronicle their daring, cunning, strength, and relentless will. Even now, we make movie about great fighters; people who will wade into combat with a jutted jaw and a “never say die” attitude.

We rarely laud peacemakers that way, and yet ending a fight is much tougher than starting one. Ending a fight requires poise, diplomacy, intelligence, understanding, patience, and for my money much more courage. Peacemakers may have books written about their accomplishments and statues built to their names, but not nearly as often as do generals.

All of that is why I think your team can take a real bow. In an area where we have not necessarily made the progress you clearly once hoped for, this was a step in a positive direction, and it was accomplished in the name of peace.

Regards,
Tom

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