Charles Moskos

Charles Moskos

Charles C. Moskos (May 20, 1934 – May 31, 2008) was a sociologist of the United States Military and a professor at Northwestern University. Described as the nation's "most influential military sociologist" by the Wall Street Journal (where his byline occasionally appeared over op-ed pieces), Moskos had long been a source for reporters from the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, USA Today and other periodicals. He was perhaps most well known as the author of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which prohibits homosexual service members from acknowledging their sexual orientation.



Moskos was born May 20, 1934, in Chicago, Illinois to Greek immigrant parents from southern Albania (Northern Epirus). In his book Greek Americans: Struggle and Success (Transaction Publications, 2001) — which he jokingly called "his bestseller" bought only by Greek Americans — he recalls that his father, christened Photios, adopted the name Charles after pulling it out of a hat full of "slips with appropriately American-sounding first names."

He met his German wife Ilca, a Spanish/German foreign language teacher, while studying at the University of California, Los Angeles. She recently retired from New Trier High School where she taught foreign languages. He is survived by their two sons, Peter Moskos, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Andrew Moskos, co-founder of Boom Chicago in Amsterdam; and his brother, Harry Moskos of Knoxville, Tennessee, the retired editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Charles Moskos wrote for many scholarly and popular publications. 1993, to help break an impasse between the Clinton administration and military leadership over the status of gays in the military, Moskos coined the compromise policy (and phrase) don't ask, don't tell. Originally suggested as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Seek, Don't Flaunt" to Senate Armed Forces Committee Chairman Senator Sam Nunn, it was eventually shortened to don't ask, don't tell. Secretary of Defense Les Aspin approved the policy, and it was recommended to the President. In the following months, he worked with the White House, the Armed Forces and Senator Nunn's committee to draft the policy, which eventually was codified into law.

On May 31, 2008, Moskos died. His wife wrote: "Charles C. Moskos, of Santa Monica, Calif, formerly of Evanston, Ill, draftee of U.S. Army, died peacefully in his sleep after a valiant struggle with prostate cancer."


Charles Moskos attended Princeton University, where he graduated cum laude in 1956, on tuition scholarship and waited tables to pay for room and board. He was drafted into the US Army right after graduation in 1956. Moskos served as a draftee with the Army's combat engineers in Germany where he wrote his first article, "Has the Army Killed Jim Crow?" for the Negro History Bulletin.

Charles Moskos (left) with Army Staff Sgt. Donald Pratt (center) and an unidentified soldier during a 1967 trip to Vietnam

After leaving the military, he enrolled at UCLA, where he earned his master's and doctoral degrees in 1963. His first teaching job was at the University of Michigan, but he was soon lured away to Northwestern University, where he was one of the most popular sociology professors in the school.[1] "Students rush to his classes to hear enthralling lectures peppered with cheesy jokes and anecdotes," the Daily Northwestern recalled in a May 2008 editorial, written the month before his death. "They may be drawn by his famed don't-ask-don't-tell military policy, but they stick around to experience his grandfather-like interactions that make every student feel personally addressed."

Along with a number of other notable Greek Americans, he was a founding member of The Next Generation Initiative, a leadership program aimed at getting students involved in public affairs.

He retired in 2003 and moved to Santa Monica, although he returned to Northwestern each fall to teach an introductory sociology course.

Of the course of his career, Moskos traveled to war-torn countries throughout the world. For research he visited American troops in Vietnam (1965 and 1967); the Dominican Republic (1966); Honduras (1984); Panama (1989); Saudi Arabia (1991); Somalia (1993); Haiti (1994); Macedonia (1995); Hungary (1996); Bosnia and the Serb Republic (1996 and 1998); Kosovo (2000); Kuwait, Qatar, and Iraq (2003). Non-American military visits include: United Nations Force in Cyprus (1969-70), Italian Army in Albania (1994), Greek Army in Bosnia (1998), British Army in Iraq (2003).

What Moskos called his "real fame" came when he coined the phrase "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and attached it to the controversial compromise policy he developed for the Clinton administration on gays in the military. The military's code of conduct prohibits homosexuality, but according to the policy, which is still in effect, the government cannot "ask" about an enlistee's sexual preferences, and homosexuals cannot "tell" military superiors they are gay.

Moskos also advocated restoring the military draft. He insisted that enforcing a shared military experience for Americans of different classes, races and economic backgrounds forged a sense of common purpose.

"This shared experience helped instill in those who served, as in the national culture generally, a sense of unity and moral seriousness that we would not see again -- until after September 11, 2001," he wrote in a November 2001 article in Washington Monthly (with Paul Glastris). "It's a shame that it has taken terrorist attacks to awaken us to the reality of our shared national fate."

Charles Moskos was a respected source for the military and the media and his influence in the military went very high.[1] Military commanders such as Gen. James L. Jones, the U.S. Marine Corps commandant, and Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, former U.S. Army chief of staff, regularly sought his advice.[1] In 2005 Moskos completed a study for the Joint Chiefs of Staff on international military cooperation.

He was author of several books, including "The American Enlisted Man," "The Military - More Than Just A Job?," "Soldiers and Sociologists," "The New Conscientious Objection," "A Call To Civic Service," and "Reporting War When There Is No War". He was also the author of "All That We Can Be: Black Leadership And Racial Integration The Army Way," which won the Washington Monthly award for the best political book of 1996. In addition, he published well over one hundred articles in scholarly journals and news publications such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Atlantic Monthly, and The New Republic; and his work has been translated into fourteen languages. He was a leading figure in the field of civil-military relations. He was president of the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society (1989-1995) and Chair (1989-1997).

In addition, he was consulted by Presidents William J. Clinton and George H.W. Bush and testified before Congress on issues of military personnel policy several times. In 1992, he was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to serve on the President's Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Military. He was decorated by the governments of the United States , France and the Netherlands for his research and held the Distinguished Service Medal, the U.S. Army's highest decoration for a civilian.

Charles Moskos was a leader in the field of Civil-Military Relations. He served as President (1989–1995) and Chair (1989–1997) of the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society.


In 2000, Moskos told academic journal Lingua Franca that he felt the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy will be gone within five to ten years. He went on to debunk the unit cohesion argument, the most frequent rationale given for the continued exclusion of gay service members from the U.S. military. Instead he argued that since it was established that "modesty rights" require than women have separate bathrooms and showers, heterosexuals also had modesty rights:

"I should not be forced to shower with a woman. I should not be forced to shower with a gay [sic]."[2]

Moskos's comments were met with outrage by gay activists and Northwestern University students who argued that his fear of being ogled in the shower was not sufficient justification for denying equal rights to gay men and lesbians. [1] [2]

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c Taubeneck, Anne (Spring 2002). "'All That He Can Be'". Northwestern. Retrieved 2007-01-21. 
  2. ^ Frank, Nathaniel (October 2000). "The Real Story of Military Sociology and 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'". Lingua Franca (magazine). pp. 71–81. Retrieved 2006-08-09. 

See also

External links

Further reading

  • Moskos, Charles, Jr.. 1977. “From Institutions to Occupation: Trends in Military Organization.” Armed Forces & Society, vol. 4: pp. 41-50.

  • Moskos, Charles, Jr. 1986. “Institutional/Occupational Trends in Armed Forces: An Update.” Armed Forces & Society, vol. 12: pp. 377-382.

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