Taps for Charlie

Charlie Moskos, the nation's leading sociologist studying America's military, died yesterday in Santa Monica, Calif., after a long struggle with cancer.

Charlie was an intellectual giant whose ideas about military manpower and public service influenced two generations of soldiers, scholars, politicians and policy wonks. He will long be remembered for his role in conceiving the "don't ask/don't tell" compromise concept during the pitched battle over gays in the military. But if you do a literature review, you'll find that his influence was far broader and deeper than that.

And Charlie was more than just a scholar -- he was also a brilliant teacher, mentor and friend to the many thousands of students who sat in his lecture halls or worked under him during his long career. I came to know him as a journalist and treasured the discussions we had, especially his stories about trips abroad to visit and interview American troops.

Despite his success and notoriety, Charlie remained a patriotic, humble man who deeply believed in the virtue of public service for its own sake. He frequently lunched with four-star generals and members of Congress, but never let that swell his head.

He wrote many policy memoranda, sometimes describing research trips abroad, other times reacting to a new story he'd read. (He would have made a great blogger!) The memos were always short, succinct, and written to be read by anyone -- he understood that the power of his ideas was in their ability to be understood and accepted.

He'd been drafted into the Army and served as a combat engineer and company clerk during the 1950s. His memos often concluded with a signature block that read something like this: "Charlie Moskos, Professor, Northwestern University, E-4, Retired." That way, the high-ranking brass on the receiving end would know that he proudly wore the rank of an enlisted man. And that he still remembered what it was like to be a young soldier on the far receiving end of the generals' orders.

By Phillip Carter |  June 2, 2008; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Civil-Military Relations
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Good for you, Phil, in noting the passing of Charlie Moskos. A truly influential and also very nice man. He's likely somewhat dated for the younger readers here, but he always had a keen grasp of the realities of military service. I'd encourage those who don't know about him to read some of his work. You might just find some things very relevant to what we discuss on blogs such as this.

Posted by: Publius | June 2, 2008 10:57 PM

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