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Political scientist John Mearsheimer presented his criticisms of the current state of United States foreign policy at the Philomathean Society's Annual Oration.

Credit: Melissa Tustin-Gore

Renowned political scientist John Mearsheimer thinks the current state of United States foreign policy is a disaster.

Students and faculty packed into Harrison Auditorium Thursday night to hear Mearsheimer deliver a lecture titled “U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East Since 9/11: One Disaster after Another.” He gave an overview of U.S. involvement in the Middle East, touching on the Iran deal and ISIS and providing his thoughts on which presidential candidate is most qualified in foreign policy.

The Philomathean Society, with the support of 13 co-sponsors, invited Mearsheimer as their Annual Orator, maintaining a history of holding free public events to intellectually engage Penn’s campus.

Mearsheimer presented a critical review of U.S. Middle East strategy since 9/11 and reproached the “regime change” approach of former president Bush and President Obama, stating, “There is not much difference between George W. Bush and Barack Obama … they look like Tweedledee and Tweedledum.”

He described a pessimistic future for an Israeli-Palestinian resolution and the “stunning failures” of U.S. action in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Egypt.

Despite his criticism, he expressed support for the Iranian nuclear deal, describing it as “a plus on an otherwise abysmal wreck.” However, he stated the critical importance that the United States “go to great lengths to have a rapprochement with the Iranians over the next 15 years so they don’t want nuclear weapons.”

Mearsheimer expressed concern over the stances of the current U.S. presidential candidates. He quoted several Republican-frontrunners who all pledged to reverse the Iran Deal and criticized Hillary Clinton, whom he described as hawkish, while expressing support for Bernie Sanders.

“Hillary is not the best in this regard; Bernie Sanders is,” he said. “I don’t think we’re gonna have good relations with Iran if she gets elected.”

Interested students and faculty met with Mearsheimer at a tea prior to the Oration, where they enjoyed casual conversation with the political scientist, as well as in a reception following the talk. College sophomore and Philomathean Society member Leo Page-Blau, who organized Thursday’s programming, said he wanted to facilitate as much interaction between Penn students and the visiting scholar as possible.

“While having big name speakers and prominent academics on campus is nothing new, it is unique in that this event seeks to provide maximum access to everyone on Penn’s campus … our goal is to promote intellectual discussion and thought for everyone,” he said.

College freshman John Odera, a prospective philosophy and political science major, said he wished the lecture was more specialized, but was happy that he got to interact with him at the reception.

“I wish the talk provided more specific information than what one could get from reading The Economist, but I understand that he was presenting to a general audience,” he said. “I am grateful he came and that I could speak with him freely.”

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