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"I want to thank the Arms Control Association … for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war."
– Senator Joe Biden
January 28, 2004
Gen. John Shalikashivili: 1936-2011

Arms Control NOW

By Daryl G. Kimball

Over the weekend, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1993-97, John M. Shalikashvili passed away. As the obituaries in The Washington Post and The New York Times note, he had an amazing personal story and illustrious career.

President Barack Obama said, in part, "... the United States has lost a genuine soldier-statesman whose extraordinary life represented the promise of America and the limitless possibilities that are open to those who choose to serve it. From his arrival in the United States as a 16-year old Polish immigrant after the Second World War, to a young man who learned English from John Wayne movies, to his rise to the highest ranks of our military, Shali's life was an "only in America" story. By any measure, he made our country a safer and better place."

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John Shalikashvili discusses the situation in Iraq with Tim Russert, host of NBC's Meet the Press in 1996 (Image Source: National Journal).

Former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton remarked that: "His staunch advocacy for the Bosnian people saved thousands of lives in the Balkans. He was also a key advocate for nuclear weapons reduction, the expansion of NATO, the creation of a partnership for peace, and, always, for the men and women in uniform from whose ranks he came."

What the obituaries and statements don't mention is that shortly after the Senate's 1999 vote on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), he was also tapped by President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to consult with senators and discuss their concerns in order to lay the groundwork for future ratification of the CTBT, which was not an easy or simple task.

His authoritative January 2001 report "Findings and Recommendations Concerning the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty" is one of the best common sense explanations of why the Test Ban Treaty makes sense for American and international security.

In the report, Gen. Shalikaskvili concluded that "the advantages of the Test Ban Treaty outweigh any disadvantages, and thus that ratification would increase national security. For the sake of future generations, it would be unforgivable to neglect any reasonable action that can help prevent nuclear proliferation, as the Test Ban Treaty clearly would."

As those who had the chance to work with him or briefly meet him (as I did in 2000) can attest, he was a good man. He will be missed.