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...The memoir’s title embodies what Mr. Esper and other national security officials were about, trying to serve their country, not one individual...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.
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...In general, Esper disliked what he saw. Trump’s fidelity to process was close to nonexistent, his strategy 'narrow and incomplete', his 'manner' coarse and divisive...The ends Trump 'often sought rarely survived the ways and means he typically pursued to accomplish them'...The book captures Trump's rage when advised that Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, lacked command authority over the active-duty and national guard troops Trump wanted to deploy against protesters in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd...Most Republicans remain unmoved...Esper is only an author...Trump spearheads a movement.
Esper comes across as the quintessential high-level bureaucrat, the kind who likes to talk about how his education at West Point instilled 'timeless values' that provide him with a 'moral, ethical, and professional compass' that has guided him to this day ... By now we’ve reached the late decadent phase of the Trump administration memoir, and his handful of scoops aside, Esper doesn’t have that much to add ... The Trump White House ran on pettiness and spite, and so should Trump administration memoirs. There isn’t enough of this in A Sacred Oath, but Esper can dish it out when he deigns to ... The good dish in A Sacred Oath is sparse, but at least Esper is forthright in expressing his opinion that Trump was not qualified for the office of president. What he’s less honest about is how Trump rose to power as a result of 'traditional' Republicans like himself.
Esper's account could have used some trimming, but he's rigorously methodical and a capable writer...His explanation of the Alexander Vindman scandal, when Trump pressured Esper to illegally expel a whistleblower from the ranks, is the most thorough in the literature (outside of Vindman's own memoir)...The author takes special pains to show how, over the course of Trump's four years, competent civil and military servants were forced out and replaced by loyalists; in Trump's desparate last year, it was nothing short of a purge...Esper ventures that Trump's instincts were not always wrong, but, as he explains, 'the ends he often sought rarely survived the ways and means he typically pursued to accomplish them'...A damning portrait of a chaotic, inept administration that posed countless dangers to the nation and the world.