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, Moskos was often a source for reporters from the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, and other periodicals. He was the author of the "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) policy, which prohibited homosexual service members from acknowledging their sexual orientation from 1993 to 2011.
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, which he jokingly called "his bestseller" bought only by Greek Americans, he recalled 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."
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 U.S. Army right after graduation in 1956. Moskos served 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. 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 recruited to Northwestern University, where he was one of the most popular sociology professors in the school. "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."
Moskos took many research trips to war-torn countries. 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).
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. 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. 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. 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 Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush and testified before Congress on issues of military personnel policy several times. In 1992, he was appointed by 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. He served as President (1989–1995) and Chair (1989–1997) of the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society.
Don't ask, don't tell
What Moskos called his "real fame" came when he coined the phrase "don't ask, don't tell". In 1993, to help break an impasse between the Clinton administration and military leadership over the status of gays in the military, Moskos devised a compromise policy and coined the 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, Moskos worked with the White House, the Armed Forces, and the Senate Armed Forces Committee to draft the policy, which eventually was adopted.
In 2000, Moskos told academic journal Lingua Franca that he felt the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy would be gone within five to ten years. He criticized the unit cohesion argument, the most frequent rationale for the continued exclusion of gay and lesbian service members from the U.S. military. Instead he argued that since it was established that "modesty rights" require that 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."
Moskos's comments were met with outrage by gay activists and Northwestern University students who argued that his fear of being eyed in the shower was not sufficient justification for denying equal rights to gay men and lesbians.
He met his German wife Ilca, a foreign language teacher, while studying at the University of California, Los Angeles. He retired from full-time teaching in 2003 and moved to Santa Monica, returning to Northwestern each fall to teach an introductory sociology course. His wife taught foreign languages at New Trier High School. They had two sons, Peter, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Andrew, co-founder of Boom Chicago in Amsterdam. His brother, Harry Moskos of Knoxville, Tennessee, was editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Moskos died on May 31, 2008. 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."
- "From Institutions to Occupation: Trends in Military Organization," Armed Forces & Society, vol. 4 (1977), 41-50
- With Morris Janowitz, "Racial Composition in the All-Volunteer Force," Armed Forces & Society, vol. 1 (1974), 109-123
- "Institutional/Occupational Trends in Armed Forces: An Update," Armed Forces & Society, vol. 12 (1986), 377-382
- With Morris Janowitz, "Five Years of the All-Volunteer Force: 1973-1978" Armed Forces & Society, vol. 5 (1979), 171-218
- "National service in America: an idea whose time is coming," Perspectives on culture and society, vol. 1 (1988), 63-80
- Transaction Publications, 2001
- Taubeneck, Anne (Spring 2002). "All That He Can Be". Northwestern. Retrieved 2007-01-21.
- 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.
- Independent Gay Forum: Paul Varnell, "DADT Unravels Further," November 22, 2000, accessed April 4, 2012
- Northwestern University
- American Forces Press Service
- Personal Web Site
- Lecture at DePauw University, September 30, 2004
- Interview at the Pritzker Military Library