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Former Reagan administration Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, the architect of the post-Vietnam era military build-up that was a critical element in Reagan administration Cold War strategy, died this morning after a battle with pneumonia. He was 88.

Weinberger, who had served in the Nixon administration and where he was known as ” Cap the knife” for severe budget cutting, oversaw one of the largest defense transformations in the history of the world. One of the few top advisers with unlimited access to the president, Weinberger was famous for his acrimonious battles with Secretary of State George Schultz, his longtime former colleague at Bechtel Corporation.

Ironically, Shultz and Weinberger were allies in opposing the Iran-Contra covert operations engineered by DCI William Casey, NSC Adviser John Poindexter, former NSC adviser Robert McFarlane and Colonel Oliver North. Despite his opposition to the Iran-Contra affair, Weinberger was prosecuted by Special Counsel Lawrence Walsh – a legal move regarded by most Republicans as vindictive and groundless – and ultimately was pardoned by the first President Bush.

Weinberger, despite his advocacy of robust American defense budgets, was exceptionally cautious about the use of military force and promoted the ” Weinberger Doctrine” now better known as the ” Powell Doctrine” that put fairly strict and clear tests for potential American intervention. He initially opposed both the multinational intervention in Lebanon as well as the invasion of Grenada before joining the administration consensus.

Rest in peace, Mr. Secretary.

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