Sean McFate

Speech Topics

Today, many feel lost in a dangerous world. This century is proving to be an era of ubiquitous conflict, and the lone superpower and the United Nations seem powerless to stop it. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, American presidents have struggled to contain the rising tide of conflict around the world, and failed. The United Nations is no better despite the sharp increase in peacekeeping missions since 1990. Trend lines indicate this will only get worse. This is not random; there are deep rooted reasons for the increase in chaos. This topic will explain what they are, and what can be done about them.

At this presentation audiences will learn about:

– Why conflict and instability are spreading in the world

– Why the US, UN and others are unable to contain it

– What can be done


Geopolitics use to be dictated by nation-states. Now nation-states are just one actor on a crowded world stage that includes: international organizations like the UN, NGOs like Amnesty International, the global media, multinational corporations, terrorist, international criminal gangs, and others. This is forever changing international relations, and this topic will discuss what to expect in the future.

At this presentation audiences will learn about:

– Why nation-states will continue to lose power

– What is replacing them

– What geopolitics will look like in the future


Forget what you know. Future wars will not look like science-fiction films, Tom Clancy novels or Pentagon future-war briefs. Instead, they will stretch the imagination of what we consider “war.” In tomorrow’s wars, some of the most effective weapons don’t fire bullets, and “winning” will change. There will even be wars not involving nation-states or professional militaries. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is mired in the past, fighting the wrong generation of warfare. This has left the U.S. strategically adrift and dangerously exposed in an age of perpetual conflict. Americans intuitively know this as terrorism, hacked elections and other manifestations of modern war invade our shores. This is only the beginning, and the U.S. is not alone. Europe and others struggle with the future of war too, whereas Putin and terrorists are mastering it. If we wish to remain relevant, we must learn how to fight and win wars of the future.

At this presentation audiences will learn about:

– What the Pentagon gets dangerously wrong about the future

– What future wars will look like

– Who, how and why people fight in the future

– Why non-traditional weapons will be most effective

– How to win future wars


The world grows more chaotic each year, and it is more unstable now than during the Cold War. Conflicts breed like tribbles, and the international community seems powerless to stop them. We are witnessing the emergence of a new world order — “Durable Disorder” — that can contain but not solve problems. Most are unprepared for it, while some are exploiting its chaos. The diplomatic rules of the last centuries are ever-more obsolete, and yet our foreign policy remains tooled for the past. What’s to be done? This topic will answer this question.

At this presentation audiences will learn about:

– A brief history of world order

– What the new world order looks like, and why it is emerging now

– Why our current foreign policy is incompatible with it

– How foreign policy should be transformed


Non-stop terrorist attacks, Putin the Czar, endless war in the Middle East, the dawn of cyberwar, a rising China, war refugees swamping Europe, genocides in Africa, space war, narco-wars in Latin America…these capture the headlines, books, TV shows, movies and chatter of a world at war. Not our grandfathers’ war, on the beaches of Normandy and seas of Midway, but something else, more sinister and puzzling. How do we defeat terrorism? How do we stop Putin? Will there be war with China? Will there be nukes? It makes many nostalgic for the Cold War. At least the USSR was a symmetrical enemy; one we could understand. Many point to technology, our superior military and so forth, but these are proving ineffective. This topic will suggest new instruments of national power to contend with U.S. threats.

At this presentation audiences will learn about:

– The biggest threats facing the U.S.

– Why past efforts to manage threats have failed

– What new and existing instruments of national power are needed


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Dr. Sean McFate is an expert on national security, foreign policy and international relations, and is an author and novelist. He is a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, a think tank, and a professor of strategy at the National Defense University and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

McFate’s career began as a paratrooper and officer in the U.S. Army’s storied 82nd Airborne Division. He served under Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus, and attended elite training programs, such as the US Army’s jungle warfare school in Panama.

After this, McFate became a private military contractor in Africa. Among his many experiences there, he demobilized warlords, raised small armies, helped prevent a potential genocide, and transacted arms deals from Eastern Europe. He also worked with armed groups across the Sahara and Sahel regions.

In the world of international business, McFate was a Vice President at TD International, a boutique political risk consulting firm with offices in Washington, Houston, Singapore and Zurich. Additionally, he was a manager at DynCorp International, a consultant at BearingPoint (now Deloitte Consulting) and an associate at Booz Allen Hamilton.

McFate co-wrote the novels Shadow War and Deep Black (William Morrow), part of the Tom Locke series based on his military experiences. New York Times bestselling author Mark Greaney said:

“I was blown away…. simply one of the most entertaining and intriguing books I’ve read in quite some time.”

He also authored the non-fiction book The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What They Mean for World Order (Oxford University Press) which details how war is changing in the 21st century. The Economist called it a “fascinating and disturbing book.”

A coveted speaker, he has spoken at the British House of Commons, top universities and popular audiences. He has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR, BBC, The Economist, Vice/HBO, The Discovery Channel, American Heroes Channel, Fox News and other outlets. He has published articles in Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, The New Republic, African Affairs, Military Review, Daily Beast, Vice, Salon and War on the Rocks. As a scholar, he has authored eight book chapters in edited academic volumes, and published a monograph with the U.S. Army War College on how to raise foreign armies.

McFate holds a BA from Brown University, a MPP from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and a PhD in international relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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