Council Establishes Fellowship in Honor of General John W. Vessey Jr.

Council Establishes Fellowship in Honor of General John W. Vessey Jr.

June 10, 2004 11:42 am (EST)

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Senior Fellow for Conflict Prevention to Serve as Director of the Council’s Center for Preventive Action

June 10, 2004 - The Council on Foreign Relations is establishing the General John W. Vessey Senior Fellow for Conflict Prevention, Council President Richard N. Haass announced today. The endowed fellowship is the first step toward a full chair in honor of Vessey, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “General John Vessey’s career embodies the famous principle that if you want peace, prepare for war. Naming a fellowship for conflict prevention after Jack Vessey is thus perfect. The generosity of Patrick Byrne and others will allow the Council to broaden and deepen its important work in this critical area,” said Haass.

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Made possible by a generous gift from Council member Patrick M. Byrne, founder and CEO of, the fellowship is being created to recognize the importance of conflict prevention in an increasingly complicated and dangerous world. “My family and I want to do two things with this gift,” said Byrne. “First, we want to recognize the contribution to this country that Jack Vessey has made in over sixty years of public service. Second, we wish to call attention to a missing ingredient in the United States’ foreign policy debates— the need for a strategy for preventing conflict around the globe— something that is at least as important as the ability to fight wars.”

The center is working to raise the remaining funds needed to fully endow the chair over the next year, and Byrne will lead this effort.

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1922, General Vessey served in many different posts from Northern Africa and Italy in World War II to Vietnam and to Korea, where he was commander of U.S. Forces, U.N. Forces, and of the Combined (U.S. - Korean) Forces Command. He received a battlefield commission to 2nd Lieutenant at Anzio Beach in 1944. In 1979, he became Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army and was appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan. After forty-six years of military service, Vessey retired from active duty in 1985, but continued to serve by returning to Vietnam as the Presidential Emissary to Hanoi for POW/MIA matters and as diplomat and advisor to three presidents. President George H.W. Bush awarded Vessey the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992. Vessey has been the chair of the Center for Preventive Action’s advisory board since its founding in 1994.

The Vessey Senior Fellow will serve as director of the Council’s Center for Preventive Action (CPA). CPA’s current director, Council Senior Fellow William L. Nash, is the first holder of the fellowship. Major General Nash, USA (Ret.), is a veteran of Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm and has extensive experience in peacekeeping operations, both as a military commander in Bosnia-Herzegovina and as a civilian administrator for the United Nations in Kosovo. He has been the Director of the Council’s Center for Preventive Action since April, 2001.

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The Center for Preventive Action seeks to help prevent, defuse or resolve deadly conflicts around the world and to expand the body of knowledge on conflict prevention. It does so by creating a forum in which representatives of governments, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, corporations, and civil society can gather to develop operational and timely strategies for promoting peace in specific conflict situations. CPA focuses on conflicts in countries or regions that affect U.S. interests, but may be otherwise overlooked; where prevention appears possible; and when the resources of the Council on Foreign Relations can make a difference. CPA does this by:


  • Convening Independent Preventive Action Task Forces composed of Council members, staff, and other experts. The commissions devise a practical, actionable conflict prevention strategy tailored to the facts of the particular situation.



  • Issuing Council Special Reports to evaluate and respond rapidly to developing conflict situations and formulate timely, concrete policy recommendations that the U.S. government, international community, and local actors can use to limit the potential for deadly violence.



  • Engaging the U.S. government and news media in conflict prevention efforts. CPA staff and commission members meet with administration officials and members of Congress to brief on CPA’s findings and recommendations; facilitate contacts between U.S. officials and key local and external actors; and raise awareness among journalists of potential flashpoints around the globe.



  • Building networks with international organizations and institutions to complement and leverage the Council’s established influence in the U.S. policy arena and increase the impact of CPA’s recommendations.



  • Providing a source of expertise on conflict prevention to include research, case studies, and lessons learned from past conflicts that policymakers and private citizens can use to prevent or mitigate future deadly conflicts.


Founded in 1921, the Council on Foreign Relations is an independent, national membership organization and a nonpartisan center for scholars dedicated to producing and disseminating ideas so that individual and corporate members, as well as policymakers, journalists, students, and interested citizens in the United States and other countries, can better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other governments.

Contact: Marie X. Strauss, Communications, 212-434-9536 or [email protected]

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