Skip to main content

Authors & Insights: Dr. Mark Esper & Dr. Evelyn Farkas


After the recent publication of his book “A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times,” McCain Institute John S. McCain Distinguished Fellow and former U.S. Defense Secretary Dr. Mark Esper joined McCain Institute Executive Director Dr. Evelyn Farkas for the latest installment of the Authors & Insights series.

This bipartisan discussion between two defense experts touched on Dr. Esper’s tenure as U.S. Defense Secretary and current events relating to China, Russia, Ukraine and nuclear non-proliferation.

Click HERE to view the full conversation.

Excerpts from the conversation:

America relies on the military too much for foreign policy making.
“I do think our foreign policy has become too militarized, meaning in my view that we too often use the military instrument or pursue foreign policy through the military.”

Misspent dollars, not waste, fraud and abuse plague the Pentagon’s budget.
“I never found much fraud, waste or abuse, but I found misspent dollars on legacy things, things we didn’t need and things that were not a high priority. This is really going back to my tenure as Secretary of the Army, and you bring up the famous Eisenhower speech, when I was doing my PhD, I came across his notes and he actually wrote about the military-industrial-Congressional-complex, but he struck Congressional at the last moment. And it’s a shame because Congress is a big player in this.”

The civility of leaders like John McCain is sorely missed in American political discourse.
“I’m always reminded of that famous moment in a town hall he was taking questions from the audience and an older woman says something about President Obama, about him being a Muslim or something like that, and McCain to his detriment said no no no, I disagree with him, he’s a good man we just have different views. That was a very important leadership moment and for him to do that it spoke to not only the civility of John McCain but the civility we need in our political atmosphere.”


Dr. Mark Esper became the 27th Secretary of Defense in July 2019. As Defense Secretary, Esper was responsible for ensuring the United States’ national security, protecting the American people at home and abroad, and advancing the country’s interests globally. Prior to becoming Defense Secretary, Dr. Esper served as the 23d Secretary of the Army from November 2017 through June 2019. Currently, he serves as the John S. McCain Distinguished Fellow for the McCain Institute.

Dr. Evelyn Farkas has three decades of experience working on national security and foreign policy in the U.S. executive, legislative branch, private sector and for international organizations overseas. In 2019-2020 she ran to represent New York’s 17th Congressional District in the House of Representatives. She is currently the executive director of the McCain Institute at Arizona State University. Prior to that, she was president of Farkas Global Strategies and a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United State and the Atlantic Council and national security contributor for NBC/MSNBC. She served from 2012 to 2015 as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia, Balkans, Caucasus and conventional arms control. From 2010 to 2012, she was the senior advisor to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and special advisor to the Secretary of Defense for the NATO Summit. Prior to that, she was the executive director of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism and senior fellow at the American Security Project. From 2001 to 2008, she served as a professional staff member of the Senate Armed Services Committee responsible for Asia Pacific, Western Hemisphere, Special Operations Command, and policy issues including combatting terrorism and export control. From 1997-2001, Dr. Farkas was a professor of international relations at the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College. She served 1996-97 in Bosnia with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). She has published numerous journal articles and opinion pieces and “Fractured States and U.S. Foreign Policy: Iraq, Ethiopia, and Bosnia in the 1990s “(Palgrave/St. Martin’s Press). She speaks Hungarian and German and has studied French, Spanish, Serbo-Croatian, Russian and Hindi. Dr. Farkas obtained her M.A. and Ph.D. from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. She serves as a D.C. family court-appointed special advocate. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Board of Directors for the Project 2049 Institute, Supporters of Civil Society in Russia, Leadership Council-Women in National Security, and the Board of Trustees of her alma mater, Franklin & Marshall College.


While the U.S. faces a range of challenges these days – both here at home and on the world stage – the McCain Institute maintains that all of them can be met by reaffirming character-driven leadership. To bolster its message, the Institute hosts Authors & Insights Book Talk Series. Through this “reverse book tour,” Institute leaders interview authors of important newly-released books on American politics, policy and leadership with the intention to engage the American people in a dialogue that affirms the importance of character-driven leadership and America’s leadership in the international community. The result will be a blueprint for a brighter future.

Jun 21, 2022
12:00pm ET