The Cost of Loyalty: Dishonesty, Hubris, and Failure in the U.S. Military

Bloomsbury. Feb. 2020. 400p. ISBN 9781632868985. $28. HIST
In this hard-hitting and timely delve into the culture of the American armed forces, Bakken (law, United States Military Academy at West Point) traces the miltary’s long history of prioritizing “loyalty above all else” and its effect on military success, from the end of World War II through the 2019 trial of Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher. Bakken offers withering commentary on the indoctrination that begins in the academies and results in a perverse patriotism that pushes military leaders into an “us vs. them” mentality. This tendency, according to Bakken, combined with resistance to civilian oversight, has cost America countless lives and has resulted in the failure of every major military engagement since the end of the World War II. This is a dense, though often fascinating, read, likely to be viewed as either controversial or enlightening, depending on the audience.
VERDICT For readers and scholars interested in civilian-military relations, military law, and military leadership. An excellent companion to Eliot Cohen’s Supreme Command; the two stand together in defiance of Samuel P. Huntington’s 1957 classic, The Soldier and the State.
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