In contrast to the leftist inclination of the typical audience at anti-war events, many in attendance at Thursday's teach-in voiced their impassioned support for continued military efforts in the Middle East to overthrow "oppressive" regimes.
Several students, citing ethnic ties to Iran, advocated military intervention to liberate and democratize the oppressed citizens of their homeland.
But the three UCLA history professors who spoke at the event expressed skepticism about the altruistic and humanitarian aims of the United States, and they questioned the local support for such intervention.
Instead of echoing the cliches of the anti-war movement, the speakers portrayed the conflict as the initial stage in the planned reconstruction of the Middle East by the Bush administration.
"This is the plan of the guys in charge, and it needs to be resisted," Professor Nikki Keddie said.
Members of the audience, though, expressed beliefs that the benevolent influence of the U.S. military in other parts of the region could benefit the people living under un-democratic regimes and contribute to public safety.
Countering the idea of intervention, Keddie described a marked difference between Iranians in the United States and those in Iran.
Popular support in Iran for humanitarian U.S. military action is virtually non-existent, Keddie said.
"I think countries have a right to not be invaded," she said.
Though images of exuberant Iraqis defacing images of their dictator and welcoming U.S. troops have been commonplace in the media recently, in his segment of the program, Professor Gabriel Piterberg claimed this reaction is not representative of typical Iraqi sentiment.
Piterberg offered some insight into the reasons for a lack of Iraqi support of U.S. troops, citing the arbitrary national boundaries of Iraq as an important factor in complicating the national identity of the country's citizens.
In Piterberg's view, the complexity of the Iraqis' ethnic, religious, social and national loyalties make their reaction to any kind of intervention unpredictable.
"Things are not as simple as they seem," he said.
Further combating the appeal for extended "humanitarian" military action in the region, Piterberg cited the United States' dismal record in past efforts to implement democracy abroad. He specifically mentioned U.S. support of malevolent dictators in Latin America.
Professor Emeritus Joyce Appleby focused her address on the dangers the war has imposed on the state of democracy in the United States, and cautioned against the further development of the "imperial presidency."
Appleby expressed concern over what she called the "steady augmentation of executive power," which she feels has been demonstrated by the absence of congressional approval of the current war.
Even more dangerous, in her view, is the possibility that the reconstruction of Iraq could be carried out without congressional ratification of a potential treaty.
"The power of Congress to check executive power is essential to our democracy," Appleby said.