For more than two centuries, West Point has been turning out young officers; alumni include generals, astronauts, and two Presidents. It's also a place shrouded in mystery. Yet over four years, Lipsky was given unprecedented access to the academy, where he witnessed an institution in flux, grappling with the forces of political correctness (cadets take classes in ''wellness'') and the lure of the private sector. Most illuminating are cadets' own stories: the football player who lives for the Army-Navy game, the gung ho pilot who trades combat aviation for the Finance Corps, the nervous Jewish kid whose graduation perpetually seems in doubt. Lipsky has done a distinguished service to a proud school.