Last night, the brothers of Psi Upsilon hosted renowned Political Science Professor Ian Lustick for dinner, showing the Penn community that fraternity boys do more than just party.
The decision to invite Lustick to discuss current events in the Middle East was the first step in an effort to bring University faculty into the fraternity, commonly known as the Castle, for intellectual discussion --something that used to happen regularly but had not this year until last night.
"Most of us are ignorant about topics in the Middle East," said Wharton sophomore Roni Elchahal, one of the brothers who worked to get Lustick to the house.
"It's a fun way to enlighten everyone in the house and provide another perspective to current events that are going to be important in our lives for the next 20 to 30 years," Elchahal added.
After a dinner of chicken parmesan and informal conversation, Lustick began his lecture by criticizing the media's approach to the war.
Instead of analyzing the war with an underlying notion that it is basically a sport, Lustick emphasized the need to consider the conflict from an international perspective and also through an internal, bureaucratic lens.
"When we watch the television, the same way of analyzing the war is used," Lustick said. "It's a contest, a clash of natural wills, natural resources.... It is told to us as a story between two contestants."
True to his stated goal of speaking "provocatively," Lustick spent much of his talk pacing back and forth, gesticulating emphatically and keeping three tables of fraternity brothers on the edges of their seats with language that was full of excitement.
He provided a brief history of how the law of balance of powers had resolved conflicts for centuries and suggested that since the end of the Cold War, America has been in a unique position where there is no real international force to balance ours.
"Boom! There's nobody out there, no countervailing force," Lustick exclaimed.
As a result, people in government with "extravagant fantasies about how they want to take over the world" are in a position to do just that, which Lustick said is happening now.
Rejecting each of the commonly-held ideas about why we are currently fighting a war against Iraq, Lustick spoke of a "cabal of rabid neo-imperialists" within the government that is constructing our foreign policy from inside a "silo in Washington," relying on "hypothesis-driven intelligence."
Articulating the viewpoint of the policy-makers who have catalyzed the current war against Iraq, Lustick mocked, "We need a heroic foreign policy, we need to remoralize foreign policy, because if we do not, we will not remoralize America, and the conservatives will not win."
Lustick went on to discuss a broad spectrum of topics including North Korea, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, "the Powell Doctrine" and the Patriot Act, to name a few.
Even if the brothers did not all agree with Lustick's ideas, they were excited by his talk.
"It was just phenomenal having an intellectual conversation over dinner," College freshman Andrew Rosenthal said.
"For me, it was real interesting to see an American approach to the situation that was somewhat critical -- as opposed to the perhaps less-nuanced picture painted by the national media and also the European media, which I read," said Wharton freshman Carl Endresen, a Norwegian.
Psi Upsilon brothers, many of whom describe themselves as politically conservative, spoke of debating current events rabidly among themselves as part of the impetus to bring in Lustick, and they continued to eagerly discuss Lustick's ideas long after he departed.
"I thought it was definitely a different perspective on the war in the Middle East than what you hear in the media or on FOX," Wharton sophomore Ryan Jackson said. "It was great."