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A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times Hardcover – May 10 2022
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INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Former Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper reveals the shocking details of his tumultuous tenure while serving in the Trump administration.
From June of 2019 until his firing by President Trump after the November 2020 election, Secretary Mark T. Esper led the Department of Defense through an unprecedented time in history—a period marked by growing threats and conflict abroad, a global pandemic unseen in a century, the greatest domestic unrest in two generations, and a White House seemingly bent on breaking accepted norms and conventions for political advantage. A Sacred Oath is Secretary Esper’s unvarnished and candid memoir of those extraordinary and dangerous times, and includes events and moments never before told.
“A Sacred Oath pulls no punches. It depicts Trump as unfit for office and a threat to democracy, a prisoner of wrath, impulse and appetite. Over 752 pages, Esper’s Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times are surgically precise in their score-settling. This is not just another book to be tossed on the pyre of Trump-alumni revenge porn. It is scary and sobering.” — The Guardian
“Mr. Esper details the all-consuming task of managing America’s largest and most vital cabinet department—instructive reading for those unfamiliar with what operationalizing national security policy decisions involves. Time and again, he shows how presidential inattention, ignorance, incuriosity, duplicity and unwillingness to take responsibility for hard decisions all put the United States at risk…. A Sacred Oath is not a gratuitous tell-all. It is a work of history. Mr. Esper has his perspectives, to which he is entitled, but his willingness to go on the record at length is invaluable. Look forward to the reaction from Mar-a-Lago.” — Wall Street Journal
“A damning portrait of a chaotic, inept administration that posed countless dangers to the nation and the world.” — Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Mark T. Esper served as secretary of defense from 2019 to 2020 and as secretary of the Army from 2017 to 2019. A distinguished graduate of West Point, he spent twenty-one years in uniform, including a combat tour in the 1991 Gulf War. Esper earned a Ph.D. from George Washington University while working on Capitol Hill and at the Pentagon as a political appointee. He was also a senior executive at a prestigious think tank, at various business associations and commission, and at a Fortune 100 technology company. Esper is the recipient of multiple civilian and military awards, and currently sits on several public policy and business boards.
- Publisher : William Morrow (May 10 2022)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 752 pages
- ISBN-10 : 006314431X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0063144316
- Item weight : 894 g
- Dimensions : 15.24 x 4.45 x 22.86 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: #191,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from Canada
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While many of the books I have read about the Trump Administration focus greatly on life within the West Wing, Mark T. Esper’s book offers a different perspective, which presents a ‘bigger picture’ of how things were done and the decision-making process. Esper gives some background on his life and how he rose through the ranks, before being asked to serve as Secretary of the Army and eventually at Defense. While it was surely an honour to do so, Esper makes clear that there were some really big shoes to fill and some concerns to address throughout the time he served in the Cabinet.
Esper lays the groundwork for some interesting discussions about how the Secretary of Defense and those under him serve the country and the president. While many would likely presume it is all wars and tank fighting, as well as rallying the troops before they head into battle, Esper explains that a great deal went on stateside to keep Defense running smoothly. There were troop deployments and the state of military families that needed to be handled, as well as some of the issues around base protocols and permissions to run things in a certain way. This theme comes back throughout the book, particularly when Esper was forced to make some strong policies that clashed with Trump and his ability to appease a raucous base of supporters. Two of the greatest clashes that receive much print related to flying the Confederate flag on military bases and using the military to quell protestors during some of the heightened clashes about race and police brutality. While Esper held firm, many could see that this pushback would not bode well for his long-term employment.
Esper also speaks at length about some of his work on the international scene. Throughout his tenure at Defence, Esper handled a number of situations where Iran found itself in the crosshairs. Esper sought to work with Trump and others in the Cabinet to come up with strategic, diplomatic, and military options to handle some of the Iranian issues. However, there were also issues on a higher level with China, which Esper discusses throughout the tome. China’s technological and financial power could not be ignored by the US, which Esper translated as being a strong threat to world peace and a balance on the Asian continent. Other players and allies, such as Japan, South Korean and India, also noticed China’s power in the region, something Esper tried to handle through diplomatic men’s as best he could. His insights offer the reader a better idea of the strategic games played by both sides to keep the peace and yet not miss possible moves that could significantly change the political scene.
Mark T. Esper offers a great perspective for those who seek to better understand the inner workings of the Trump Administration, not only from a West Wing perspective. He tackles tough issues related to his being Secretary of Defense, offering statistics and ideas about how America faced some of its enemies and allies through a tough time period. Esper pulls no punches in his easy to digest narrative, but does not seek to create a tell-all book to smear Trump or his sycophants. My interest is piqued to learn a little more about some of the other actors who played impactful roles. Esper presents his views in well-paced chapters and fills each with information key to better understanding the situation and those who played a role, especially Trump and some of the military actors who would run things for Defense. Esper does not come across as bowing down to Trump, but also knew when to challenge over biting his tongue. While i knew little about the man before reading this book, I have a new-found respect for him and how he tried to steer the country away from clashes at a time when the Commander-in-Chief was anything but leadership material.
Kudos, Mr. Esper, for a wonderful exploration of your time within the Trump Administration. I can only imagine what else you might have to say, should it not have to be vetted for publication.
By the way, I am not a Trump supporter.
Top reviews from other countries
I read it because a review I read in the Guardian suggested it offered a better perspective on Trump than other books exposing the goings on in the White House because of Esper’s integrity and how his commitment to the apolitical nature of his post, running the military meant that his loyalty was to the American Constitution and not necessarily the President.
In fact most of this book is not really about Trump at all but about what he considers he achieved in terms of maintaining and reordering the US military, and his reasons for his actions. Also like one or two other books about US politics and history I have read over the years it offers a very clear understanding of the structure of US government especially the relations with the Chairman of the Chief of (military) Staffs, with the State Department, the National Security Council and so on. However compared to other books I have read you feel Esper is writing for an American audience who would naturally already have a basic understanding of these things, he doesn’t spell it all out.
Of course as an English person there are a lot of things I don’t understand about contemporary US politics, especially the breakdown of bipartisan politics and Esper doesn’t go into the political scene in general. This is strictly a personal memoir about the role of the Department of Defense, and his role as Secretary, and his relationship with Trump and Trump’s henchmen especially Robert O’Brien and Mark Meadows. Interestingly Mike Pompeo and especially Bill Barr come out pretty well here. And Bolton too.
The book offers a very clear picture of how Trump would often be reasonable and charming and without warning lurch into red-faced anger in which he would ignore a series of policies he had recently agreed with, and that had been worked out laboriously in conjunction with several US Departments of government. At other times he could be thoughtful and constructive, but sometimes it seemed to be all about his own position, especially as the election approached. And as we know, he hasn’t gone away yet.
The most important areas of conflict between Esper and Trump were around Trump abrogating proper procedure and trying to get decisions made about committing the US military to a variety of actions at home and abroad without any proper planning or consideration of the consequences. Esper worked very hard with certain colleagues to gently get Trump to consider other options and this in itself was a fulltime job. The biggest issues in terms of difficulty were the responses to the disturbances over the murder of George Floyd and the increasing craziness in the White House in the run up and the immediate aftermath of the 2020 election. Esper was fired by Trump a few days after the election. Esper restricts his comments to the period he was Secretary for Defense, (and before that Secretary of the Army), so he doesn't comment on the storming of the Capitol, he restricts his comments of that of which he knows.
The book is not difficult to read except in that there is a lot of detail about all the matters he had to consider so for a Limey it takes some concentration, but for this Limey it was well worth the effort.
1. Explains in detail key events in the Trump presidency when Esper was in the presence of Trump. Unlike journalists, psychologists and historians, Esper had many first-hand experiences dealing with the enigmatic Donald Trump.
2. Highlights people of substance who helped hold Trump in check. Best example—Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley.
3. Explains how Attorney General Bill Barr, General Milley and others stood tall when our constitution was in grave danger
4. Helps the reader understand the inner workings of the Pentagon during a crucial time.
5. Shows how close relationships among the top officials within the Department of Defense can enhance good policy making, planning and decision making.
For purpose of full disclosure, I should state that served in the Pentagon for six years and worked, for a time, as a military assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense. Also, I am the author of a substantive book on the Department of Defense, Assignment Pentagon---now in its 4th edition.
Not worth the money, waste of time.