Obituary: Caspar Weinberger

Caspar Weinberger was the powerhouse behind the huge expansion of US military strength during the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

A confident Cold War warrior, he was defence secretary from the start of Reagan's presidency in January 1981 until he resigned in November 1987.

He got Congress to approve major defence spending increases that financed the modernisation of US forces with new missiles - including the Trident D5 - and aircraft.

He also championed the space defence system nicknamed Star Wars, though funding was gradually decreased as doubts about the system grew.

His record however was marred when, after leaving office, he was indicted in the Iran-Contra affair in which arms were illegally sold to Iran and the money used to help the Contra guerrillas fighting against the Sandinista government of Nicaragua.

He always said he had opposed the sales but was charged with having lied to Congress about them. President George Bush Sr pardoned him in 1992.

Steely determination

A small, wiry man with a wry smile, Weinberger's manner was one of a steely determination to build up American power and to use it in US interests and in the interest of US allies.

His role was to support with military hardware Ronald Reagan's strategic vision of standing up to the Soviet Union and of possible bringing about its collapse.

The vision was eventually accomplished, though history might argue as to whether the economic failures of communism were not just as responsible.

Click here for the NYT obituary.

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