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Fighting for Peace, by Caspar Weinberger

- Abstract

The New York Times’s reviewer called this book a work of fantasy. The New Republic’s criticized it for neglecting its proper subject, namely, defense policy. National Review published an exchange (based on an excerpt from the book) between the author and former National Security Adviser Robert C. MacFarlane, both parts consisting largely of personal nastiness. Why, then, should anyone bother with Fighting for Peace? The answer is that to read this intensely personal book is to learn to what sort of human being Ronald Reagan entrusted the defense of the United States, and, at least indirectly, what happened to that trust in the years (1981-87) of his tenure.

As others have pointed out, in this book Caspar Weinberger shows himself to be a man who to his superiors gives empty praise, of his subordinates demands it. Thus, Weinberger speaks of Ronald Reagan the way underlings used to speak of Stalin or Kim Il Sung: all-wise, all-caring, never wrong. As for subordinates, Weinberger depicts everyone who tried to argue with him as a bad guy, someone with “an agenda.” The good guys? The “permanent professionals,” who never showed him an “agenda,” and went out of their way to be helpful. How those professionals dealt with Weinberger may be seen in one particularly outrageous scheme the Air Force favored for basing the MX missile: it was labeled with an acronym corresponding to Weinberger’s nickname: CAP.

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