It was announced this morning that former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger died at the age of 88.
He served, most notably, as President Ronald Reagan's Defense Secretary from 1981-1987. For more, read this extensive (and quite flattering) biography from the Department of Defense.
I always thought that it was a joke that he kept his old nickname, which hints at his affinity for economies and saving money. Why, you ask?
Well, he presided over one of the most wide-ranging and costly defense-building projects that could have ever been imagined. It was estimated that during Weinberger's tenure, the U.S. defense budget rose 43% over its levels at the height of the war in Vietnam. That's quite a lot, no?
We were, however, locked in a showdown with the perfidious and shadowy Soviet Union, and we were experiencing a period of economic expansion. Then again, it left massive budget deficits that basically insured that George H.W. Bush would be a one term president because of the economy, stupid.
The claim that it was Weinberger that pioneered the idea that we should "spend" the Soviets into submission is kinda true, kinda false. First off, the U.S.S.R. in the mid-1980's was in a rather sad state of repair. With the death of Yuri Andropov AND Konstantin Cherenenko in 1984, and a young Mikhail Gorbachev (young for a Soviet premier, anyway) at the helm, the Evil Empire never looked weaker. Years of failed economic planning, party bureaucratic torpor, the ill-concieved invasion of Afghanistan (1979) and a general culture of corruption and ignorance came to a head in these years. I hate to make this judgement, but I think it was only a matter of time. The U.S.S.R.'s days (as it had existed since the 1920's) were numbered.
So, you ask, was the massive spending on defense a good thing. You naturally realize that this is an extraordinarily complex issue that is hard, perhaps even dangerous, to cover in so short a space, but here goes...
Budget deficits? Bad.
Mutually assured destruction? Worse.
Year in review
2 weeks ago