Joseph Ledford

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A Reagan Revolution Manifested: The Iran-Contra Affair, 1981 – 1992
Department:
History
Term:
Summer 2018

My project focuses on the Iran-Contra Affair. National Security Council staff member Oliver North’s “neat idea” of converting profits from arms-for-hostages deals with Iran into aid for the Nicaraguan Contras violated the Boland amendments, which Congress enacted to prohibit U.S.-Contra funding, and an arms embargo on Iran. The scandal that became known as the Iran-Contra Affair engulfed Reagan’s presidency. It prompted Watergate-style congressional hearings and launched a criminal investigation by the Office of the Independent Counsel. The ensuing political theatrics captured America’s attention and portended the end of “the Teflon-coated presidency.” Prosecutors indicted numerous participants. President George H.W. Bush, however, granted pardons to numerous offenders on Christmas Eve in 1992, ending the Iran-Contra’s legal matters but not its legacy. Reagan indeed survived the episode, as did presidential power in the practice of foreign policy. My dissertation thus addresses how and why Iran-Contra resulted from Reagan's foreign policy and his battle with Congress over its execution. I examine the political and strategic conditions that produced the affair, exploring their relation to the Cold War and the role of executive power in conducting foreign affairs. I shall return this summer to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, to conduct further fieldwork. There, I will research the Reagan administration’s policies toward the Middle East, with particular attention to Israel, Iran, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia.