Cover image for The cost of loyalty : dishonesty, hubris, and failure in the U.S. military
Title:
The cost of loyalty : dishonesty, hubris, and failure in the U.S. military
ISBN:
9781632868985
Physical Description:
xi, 386 pages ; 25 cm
Summary:
A courageous and damning look at the destruction wrought by the arrogance, incompetence, and duplicity prevalent in the U.S. military-from the inside perspective of a West Point professor of law. Veneration for the military is a deeply embedded but fatal flaw in America's collective identity. In twenty years at West Point, whistleblower Tim Bakken has come to understand how unquestioned faith isolates the U.S. armed forces from civil society and leads to catastrophe. Pervaded by chronic deceit, the military's insular culture elevates blind loyalty above all other values. The consequences are undeniably grim: failure in every war since World War II, millions of lives lost around the globe, and trillions of dollars wasted. Bakken makes the case that the culture he has observed at West Point influences whether America starts wars and how it prosecutes them. Despite fabricated admissions data, rampant cheating, epidemics of sexual assault, archaic curriculums, and shoddy teaching, the military academies produce officers who maintain their privileges at any cost to the nation. Any dissenter is crushed. Bakken revisits all the major wars the United States has fought, from Korea to the current debacles in the Middle East, to show how the military culture produces one failure after another. The Cost of Loyalty is a powerful, multifaceted revelation about the United States and its singular source of pride. One of the few federal employees ever to win a whistleblowing case against the U.S. military, Bakken, in this brave, timely, and urgently necessary book, and at great personal risk, helps us understand why America loses wars.
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Summary

Summary

A courageous and damning look at the destruction wrought by the arrogance, incompetence, and duplicity prevalent in the U.S. military-from the inside perspective of a West Point professor of law.

Veneration for the military is a deeply embedded but fatal flaw in America's collective identity. In twenty years at West Point, whistleblower Tim Bakken has come to understand how unquestioned faith isolates the U.S. armed forces from civil society and leads to catastrophe. Pervaded by chronic deceit, the military's insular culture elevates blind loyalty above all other values. The consequences are undeniably grim: failure in every war since World War II, millions of lives lost around the globe, and trillions of dollars wasted.

Bakken makes the case that the culture he has observed at West Point influences whether America starts wars and how it prosecutes them. Despite fabricated admissions data, rampant cheating, epidemics of sexual assault, archaic curriculums, and shoddy teaching, the military academies produce officers who maintain their privileges at any cost to the nation. Any dissenter is crushed. Bakken revisits all the major wars the United States has fought, from Korea to the current debacles in the Middle East, to show how the military culture produces one failure after another.

The Cost of Loyalty is a powerful, multifaceted revelation about the United States and its singular source of pride. One of the few federal employees ever to win a whistleblowing case against the U.S. military, Bakken, in this brave, timely, and urgently necessary book, and at great personal risk, helps us understand why America loses wars.


Author Notes

Tim Bakken is the first civilian promoted to professor of law in West Point's history. He became a federal whistleblower after reporting corruption at West Point and, after the Army retaliated against him, became one of the few federal employees to win a retaliation case against the U.S. military. A former homicide prosecutor in Brooklyn, Bakken received law degrees from Columbia University and the University of Wisconsin and is still teaching at West Point. He lives in New York City.


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

West Point law professor Bakken debuts with a blistering, top-to-bottom critique of America's armed forces. Placing revelations about the ongoing epidemic of sexual assault within the military and scandals such as the cover-up of the friendly-fire death of former NFL player Pat Tillman in Afghanistan in 2004 in a broader context, Bakken revisits the conspiracy to conceal the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and documents misrepresentation of admissions rates, violent behavior, increased "dissociation from civilian society," and prioritization of loyalty over truth at U.S. military academies. He also notes the irony that the American public's increased deference to the armed services has coincided with "seventy-five years of losses" since WWII. Bakken's insider perspective, litany of shocking examples, and evidence-based approach combine to paint a grim picture of failures by U.S. political and military leaders and their implications for the future. Though his suggestions for reform, including abolishing the Uniform Code of Military Justice and turning service academies into civilian universities, seem far-fetched, this essential and disturbing account illuminates the state of the problem. (Feb.)


Kirkus Review

A West Point professor deconstructs the many failures of America's most beloved institution: the armed forces.Bakkenthe first civilian hired to teach law at West Point who was also a whistleblower and won a retaliation case against the U.S. militarydelivers an angry polemic, arguing that America's military is commanded by men of limited intelligence but self-serving loyalty to their institution. This didn't matter before World War II, when peacetime forces were tiny and neglected. Since 1945, however, they have swollen massively, dominating civil society and operating free of constitutional restraints thanks to several Supreme Court decisions and fawning civilian leaders. Fervently admiredapproval in polls never drops below 70%the military has attained untouchable status from its commander in chief. Every president after Dwight Eisenhower has proclaimed unqualified esteem, and Congress, which last declared war in 1942, has surrendered its authority. Yet despite performing with spectacular incompetence in most wars since WWII, no general has been fired. Bakken places much blame on the service academies (West Point et al.), mediocre institutions awash in money whose draconian discipline and teaching methods date from their founding. Most instructors are junior officers with no specialty in their subject who rotate through for a few years, following a rigid syllabus from which they cannot deviate. Readers may pause in their fuming to recall that brilliant people rarely choose a career in the militaryor law enforcement. Rather, members of the military join for the action and value courage and loyalty above all. They consider themselves a band of brothers, indispensable defenders of the nation, most of whose effete citizens lack their selfless dedication. Warriors have always believed this, which is a mostly harmless situation unless they are calling the shots, which the author states is happeningand they are making a mess of it.A provocative, disturbing argument that a democracy is in trouble when it venerates the military unconditionally. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Table of Contents

Preface: The Collapsep. vii
Introduction: Breaking the Mythp. 1
Chapter 1 The Origins of the Separate Worldp. 21
Chapter 2 Unfounded Hubrisp. 47
Chapter 3 Conformity and Cronyism-One and the Samep. 75
Chapter 4 Supreme Values-How Loyalty Creates Dishonestyp. 104
Chapter 5 A Culture of Silence-Censorship and Retaliationp. 141
Chapter 6 Criminality, Abuse, and Corruptionp. 169
Chapter 7 Violence, Torture, and War Crimesp. 200
Conclusion: The Consequences of Separationp. 253
Acknowledgmentsp. 289
Notesp. 291
Indexp. 369