John Allen Williams
Professor of Political Science, Loyola University Chicago
Chair and President, Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society

Northwestern University
November 13, 2008

I appreciate the opportunity to be here this afternoon to pay tribute to our friend and colleague Charlie Moskos. This is a gathering of very special people, all of whom have the incredibly good fortune to have known him. He affected all of us in some way, whether as a friend, as a mentor, as a social scientist, or as a public intellectual. In a world where the great are not always good and the good are not always great, Charlie managed to be both – and he did it with style.

Charlie sometimes posed this question to acquaintances, often within five minutes of meeting them: “Honor or Loyalty?” He was happy to hear that people valued honor, but he valued loyalty, as well. And Charlie was intensely loyal: to his wonderful family, to his many friends, to his Greek heritage, to his professional calling, and to the institutions that shaped him and that he, in turn, helped to shape.

Charlie was loyal to this great university and very proud to be a part of it. I knew him primarily in the context of another fine institution, the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society. The IUS is an international scholarly society formed in 1960 by Morris Janowitz, the founder of the field of military sociology. It includes scholars from many disciplines who study military professionalism and the relations between the military and the society it serves. Much of the intellectual vitality and practical success of the IUS is due to Charlie Moskos. He worked tirelessly to organize conferences, to ensure that our organization could survive financially, and to support the work of scholars young and old.

As head of the IUS for eight years, Charlie was a genuine intellectual leader, with a particular interest in exposing the good work of foreign scholars to a wider audience. Their testimonies give an idea of his impact. British scholar Christopher Dandeker remarked on “his commitment to complex and powerful ideas, clearly not just to academics but to the wider world. In doing so, he never forgot the need to talk to soldiers and understand the challenges they faced.” Marjan Malešic reminded us of Charlie’s sense of humor, “teasing me and my Slovenian colleagues by wearing a T-shirt saying ‘U.S. citizens, be not afraid: Slovenia is joining NATO to protect you.’”

Much of Charlie’s scholarly work had practical applications and some of it stirred public debate. He honored his heritage with important scholarship on Greek Americans. He was better known as the world’s most prominent military sociologist. Early in his career he developed the “Institutional / Occupational” hypothesis as a means to promote comparative historical studies of military organization and military change. In brief, the military may be viewed as a calling or simply a job. This has profound practical implications for how societies recruit, reward, and retain their military personnel. This hypothesis evolved into the Postmodern Military model, which helped predict the course of civil-military relations in Western democracies after the end of the Cold War. I was privileged to join him in this project.

He was particularly proud of being a draftee, and delighted in pointing out to more recent fellow graduates of Princeton that very few elites in this country are willing to serve in the military that defends the country that has given them so much. He liked being an enlisted man, and when someone called him “sir,” he was likely to say, “Don’t call me ‘sir’ – I work for a living!” He was among the very few sociologists who studied enlisted soldiers in the field where they were deployed, both in peace and in war. Despite his access to the highest leaders of our military, many of whom had him on speed-dial, he preferred the company of soldiers. For protocol purposes he traveled at the rank of a 3-star Lieutenant General, but once he got off the airplane he wanted to be with the troops and find out what they were thinking. Similarly, during a trip to Uruguay some years back, he escaped from discussions with the generals and used his newly-buffed up conversational Spanish to corner a shoe shine man to find out how the world looked to him.

Charlie was a policy entrepreneur who helped to guide public debates on controversial military issues. These included the rights of conscientious objectors, the integration of the armed forces, the need for national service, and opposition to the Iraq War before it began. His work on minority soldiers revealed the conditions under which the transformation of a Jim Crow military became a model for positive race relations for civilian institutions to follow.

Early in the Clinton administration he created the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that steered between punishing members of the military because they were gay and allowing them to serve openly – and thereby headed off a much more draconian policy from Congress. It was widely criticized, which Charlie regarded as a sign of success. He liked to call it “the policy everyone hates,” which was for him a mark of a good compromise. In addition, I have seen many unpublished memoranda from him to prominent office holders and high ranking officers in Washington and in theater offering sound advice on topics as diverse as military translators, troop morale, personnel issues, and the problem of corruption.

Even the most contentious policy disputes were never personal for Charlie. He had the remarkable gift of making friends of those with whom he disagreed the most – to the extent of coauthoring an op-ed with one of the strongest opponents of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on a point of fairness on which they agreed. A person of very kind heart, he signed an Amicus Curiae brief on behalf of a gay soldier whom he believed was being treated unjustly. He also said he got better press in The Advocate than he did in the New York Times. In fact, Charlie was a master of the media and knew how to use it. Much of what I know about that I learned from watching him. As I was preparing these remarks, I checked my emails from Charlie and found one from July, 2007: “Re NPR: I was on Morning Edition this Monday. Got lots of e-mail. Two third love mail, one third hate.”

Charlie’s influence from his own work and that of others he inspired is incalculable, and the ripples of his efforts expand ever outward. Political scientist Peter Feaver put it this way:

The academy has no shortage of powerful intellectual figures that have made a lasting impact on their field. And there is no shortage of colorful individuals who can delight vast crowds. And there are many warm and caring mentors who spot the outsider and care for the individual – often the junior scholar struggling to find his or her way. There are precious few who do all three…. I am struck by how many of us feel the same thing: that we won some sort of lottery because we were singled out for special attention by a great man and given a push forward on our way.

I close with this memory: Nine years ago Charlie did me the honor of coming up to Great Lakes for my Naval Reserve retirement ceremony. In my remarks I thanked him and described him as follows:

Professor Charles Moskos, America's preeminent military sociologist. Charlie is a former draftee and the world's most perceptive commentator on the role of the military in a free society. He combines rigorous academic standards with practical policy advice and a human touch. More than anyone I can think of, he speaks truth to power, and power listens.

Thank you, Charlie, for your example and your friendship. Like so many others, I am a better and happier person because of you. If I may edit William Butler Yeats, “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends. And say our glory was we had such a friend.”

Ilca, Andrew, and Peter, we thank you for sharing Charlie with us.