150 Years Of The Atlantic April 2007

The Military

This is the 14th in a series of archival excerpts in honor of the magazine’s 150th anniversary. For the full text of these articles, visit www.theatlantic.com/ideastour.
Success Story: Blacks in the Military
May 1986

by Charles Moskos

In 1986, military sociologist Charles Moskos hailed the U.S. armed forces as one of the country’s most successful examples of racial integration.

The record of the U.S. military in race relations is one that deserves recognition … Blacks occupy more management positions in the military than they do in business, education, journalism, government, or any other significant sector of American society …

Observation of any dining facility … reveals little informal racial separation. A rule of thumb is that the more military the environment, the more effective the integration. Interracial comity is stronger in the field than in the garrison, stronger on duty than off, and stronger on post than in the world beyond the base …

I have asked many Army blacks what it was that made a military career attractive as an avenue of mobility. For one thing, many of them have said, there were enough blacks in the Army to promise a certain degree of social comfort and professional support. For another, there were enough non-black and non-poor people to prevent the Army from being thought of as a “black” institution or a haven for society’s underclass. The Army, in short, delivered the uplift but not the stigma of a government social program. If the Army has succeeded as a remedial organization for many youths with otherwise dead-end prospects, it may be precisely because the Army does not admit to being a remedial organization at all.

Vol. 257, No. 5, pp. 64–72

Five Days in Fallujah
July/August 2004

by Robert D. Kaplan

While embedded with the Marines in Iraq, Atlantic correspondent Robert D. Kaplan found himself in the midst of gunfire. Marines, he abruptly realized, are very different from the rest of us.

I had just poured water into the heating filter for a Captain Country Chicken MRE, and was preparing to remove some layers of clothing beneath my flak vest … when RPG and small-arms fire rattled the scrap iron that formed the roof of the filthy garage headquarters …

Smith did not have to order his Marines straight into the direction of the fire; it was a collective impulse—a phenomenon I would see again and again over the coming days. The idea that Marines are trained to break down doors, to seize beachheads and other territory, was an abstraction until I was there to experience it. Running into fire rather than seeking cover from it goes counter to every human survival instinct—trust me. I was sweating as much from fear as from the layers of clothing I still had on from the night before, to the degree that it felt as if pure salt were running into my eyes from my forehead. As the weeks had rolled on, and I had gotten to know the [battalion] as the individuals they were, I had started deluding myself that they weren’t much different from me. They had soft spots, they got sick, they complained. But in one flash, as we charged across [the road] amid whistling incoming shots, I realized that they were not like me; they were Marines.

Vol. 294, No. 1, pp. 116–126

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