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August 27, 2018
In Memoriam: Charles William Maynes Jr.
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Zachary Ginsburg

Reviewing a biography in The New York Times on British arms control advocate and scientist Solly Zuckerman, Charles William “Bill” Maynes Jr. wrote, “One of life’s mysteries is why some individuals accomplish so much.” Maynes exemplified this mystery: he was a Rhodes Scholar, a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard University, a foreign service officer, secretary of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, chief nonproject economist for the U.S. Agency for International Development mission in Laos, issues staff head for 1972 Democratic vice presidential candidate Sargent Shriver, senior legislative assistant to Sen. Fred Harris (D-Okla.), assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs, Eurasia Foundation president, editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy magazine, and an Arms Control Association board member.

An expert both on politics and economics, Maynes was named one of the most influential U.S. experts on foreign policy by the World Affairs Councils of America. Foreign Policy magazine describes his breadth of knowledge and experience as “legendary in Washington.”

“Bill Maynes was an important member of the generation that developed the legal and institutional arrangements for international security accommodation,” said Arms Control Association Board Chairman John Steinbruner. “His persistent commitment to equitable reason and his resistance to belligerence were inspirational qualities that will long be remembered by those privileged to observe them.” Maynes, an ACA board member since October 2001, died of cancer June 2 at his home in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

As an assistant secretary of state, Maynes oversaw peacekeeping operations in Lebanon and witnessed the independence of Namibia. After leaving the Department of State in 1980, he became editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy magazine, a position he held for more years than any other editor. Under his leadership, the magazine earned numerous awards and gained broader readership.

Maynes’ opinions on the course of American international affairs at the magazine were widely respected. During the Cold War, he criticized Republican and Democratic administrations for weak, incoherent foreign policy doctrines that resulted in a destabilizing reliance on military arsenals and interventionism. “There may be particular circumstances for which military measures are appropriate,” he and his predecessor at Foreign Policy, Richard H. Ullman, remarked in 1980, “but as a panacea, such a prescription represents a political hoax on the American people.”

During the arms buildups of the early 1980s, Maynes called for a diplomatic cooling between the United States and the Soviet Union. When opinion abroad of U.S. policies stooped so low that a majority of Britons believed the United States to be a greater threat to world stability than the Soviet Union, Maynes authored a 1987 article in Foreign Policy entitled “America’s Chance,” advocating bilateral arms control arrangements. He said, “Militarily, the Soviet Union has put the United States on the defensive on arms control issues.”

Amid the uncertainty of the United States’ unipolarity after the Soviet Union’s collapse, Maynes’ analyses on U.S. and transnational affairs were almost prophetic. As early as 1993, Maynes warned of brewing ethnic conflicts, such as those in Serbia, Sudan, and Afghanistan. To meet these challenges, which frequently have little regard for national borders, he urged collective security based on the UN Charter.

Responding to Ambassador L. Paul Bremer’s proposal of a unilateral, military-oriented antiterrorism strategy that would later become a guiding philosophy of the George W. Bush administration, Maynes commented that, “[u]nfortunately, this approach has been tried and has failed. Israel followed such an approach against the Palestinian movement and Britain against the Irish Republican movement, [and] among the Palestinian and Irish populations resentment grew and support for the terrorists increased.” Instead, Maynes offered a more diplomatic approach: “The key to making progress against terrorism is not a primary reliance on military activism but continued pressure to get states to live up to their responsibilities” principally through “progress on the peace front.”

From his earliest years at Foreign Policy, but especially in his final days there, Maynes became increasingly wary of media sensationalism and its political influence. In his last editorial as editor-in-chief, Maynes concluded that “all forms of the media are under pressure these days to hold on to viewers or readers.” Thus, “[t]here is rising pressure to find pieces or to spotlight issues that will shock rather than inform.” Maynes also warned that the U.S. political system had become one in which “ideas are no longer tools made available to everybody, [but] are weapons crafted primarily for one’s political allies.”

In the final decade of his life, Maynes was the president of the Eurasia Foundation, which “distributed more than $360 million to help establish democratic and economic stability in the states of the former Soviet Union.”