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The Cost of Loyalty

Dishonesty, Hubris, and Failure in the U.S. Military

Tim Bakken

Bloomsbury Publishing

The Cost of Loyalty Download image

ISBN10: 1632868989
ISBN13: 9781632868985


400 Pages



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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.


Praise for The Cost of Loyalty

“Brave . . . [The Cost of Loyalty] should land like a grenade. Unlike the myriad critiques of the military that wash over the institution from outside the Blob, this one is written by a professor with 20 years on the inside. He knows the instructors, the culture, the admissions process, the scandals, the cover-ups, and how its legendary “warrior-scholars” have performed after graduation and on the battlefield . . . if the real sausage is made at the military academies, then Bakken has invited us in on some of the more distasteful elements going right on under our noses.”The American Conservative

"The Cost of Loyalty articulates a glaring and unflattering dilemma within the armed forces, where loyalty is often the principal value chosen over the military services’ common core values. Leaders of character must continue to train and educate the force, and this book is a must read for every military institution—if not all Congressional members and staff."—Major General Antonio Taguba, U.S. Army

"A provocative, disturbing argument that a democracy is in trouble when it venerates the military unconditionally."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Tim Bakken

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.