President Reagan was deeply invested in restoring America’s influence and prestige on the world stage. He believed that the spread of communist and Marxist philosophies represented a formidable threat to the United States and democratic governments around the world and was unafraid to lead the international campaign against them. The Reagan Doctrine, as it became known, was a policy of weakening the Soviet Union’s influence by supporting anti-communist regimes in Central America, Asia, and Africa.
Hoping to secure the release of U.S. hostages held in Lebanon and to aid the Contras in Nicaragua, members of the Reagan administration helped facilitate the sale of arms to Iran, which was at that time illegal because of an arms embargo. President Reagan created a special review board to investigate and provide its findings to the White House. After the board issued its report, he addressed the Nation.
“First, let me say I take full responsibility for my own actions and for those of my administration. As angry as I may be about activities undertaken without my knowledge, I am still accountable for those activities. As disappointed as I may be in some who served me, I’m still the one who must answer to the American people for this behavior.”
In addition to taking responsibility, President Reagan outlined major changes to prevent something like this from happening again. He brought in new staff, ordered the National Security Council to review all covert operations and ensure compliance with American values, and adopted the board’s recommendations on how the council process and staff should work.