President Reagan's covert and unilateral action of bargaining for hostages with a country that not too many years ago captured many U.S. citizens in the U.S. Embassy of their country is a precedent with catastrophic implications.
When people and animals perform some action that gives them what they want, they will tend to perform that same action over and over again. When terrorists take a few hostages and discover they are able to obtain small amounts of what they want just by releasing those few hostages, it won't take long for some future terrorist groups to conclude that a huge number of hostages could be the potential door to obtaining unlimited desires. Since terrorists deal in death and destruction, their desires will most likely be connected to such goals.
We now must be ready to deal with some truly terrifying questions: What would a thousand hostages be worth? What would a whole city held hostage be worth? And then we must wonder when do nuclear weapons become the desired items in the bargaining? This last question opens unlimited possibilities, doesn't it?
Will some future terrorist group hold some nation hostage?
These possibilities are just the tip of the catastrophic implications opened up by bargaining weapons for hostages. Terrorists know what they want, and they now know they can get what they want by using hostages as their goose that lays golden eggs full of weapons. Of course, these same weapons could be used against us in some future situation. All in all, weapons exchanged for hostages is a catastrophic precedent.