Cap Weinberger, R.I.P.
March 29, 2006; Page A18
Writing in Forbes magazine last year on the legacy of George Kennan, Caspar Weinberger concluded: "Reagan realized that containment was not enough, that the U.S. had to win the Cold War. And thanks to his leadership, we did."
The use of the pronoun "his" was typically modest, for, other than the Gipper, no American played a bigger role in defeating Soviet Communism than Mr. Weinberger, who died yesterday at the age of 88. Reagan picked his fellow Californian to transform a Defense Department left in tatters by Jimmy Carter's Presidency. In his seven years as secretary, Mr. Weinberger presided over a roughly 70% increase in defense spending and directed the modernization of the military that later won the Gulf War in spectacular fashion and remains globally dominant today.
Mr. Weinberger also exposed the false mystique of arms control as he helped put the first nails in the coffin of the Cold War MAD doctrine of mutually assured destruction. He was responsible for implementing Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative -- and lived to see that vision become a reality 20 years later, with the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the deployment of missile defenses.
After he left office, Mr. Weinberger served his country as well by refusing to accept a plea bargain in the politically motivated indictments by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh over the Iran-Contra affair. President George H.W. Bush pardoned him two weeks before he was to go to trial, and it's a tribute to Mr. Weinberger's patriotism and good will that that bitter experience never left him embittered. Perhaps he knew that his many contributions to liberty would be what history remembers.