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Lustick completed his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley in 1976 with a dissertation titled Arabs in the Jewish State: a study in the effective control of a minority population (A book adapted from the dissertation was published in 1980, see below). He has previously taught at Dartmouth College, and is the Bess W. Heyman Professor of Political science at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a founder and past president of the Association for Israel Studies and past president of the American Political Science Association Politics and History Section. Lustick is well known for his 2006 book Trapped in the War on Terror in which he argues that the War on Terrorism is an irrational policy for fighting America's enemies. He argues that the War on Terrorism was initially conceived of by neo-conservatives at the Project for a New American Century who were determined to shift the direction of U.S. foreign policy towards unilateralism. But because of political features unique to the US system, Lustick argues, the War on Terror has ultimately turned into something beyond anyone's control.
His current research involves applications of evolutionary and complexity theory to the development of computer simulations using agent-based models for research and policy analysis. Between 2010 and the present day, Lustick returned to some prominence by writing articles that variously called for Israel to negotiate with Hamas over the future of the area and said that the only way to resolve the war between Israelis and Palestinians was to implement a one-state solution.
He is a member of the American Political Science Association, the Association for Israel Studies, the Middle East Studies Association, and the Council on Foreign Relations.
- Arabs in the Jewish State : Israel's control of a national minority. Austin : University of Texas Press, c1980. (xii, 385 p.)
- State-building failure in British Ireland & French Algeria. Berkeley, Calif. : Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley, c1985. (x, 109 p.)
- Israel's Dangerous Fundamentalists, by Ian S. Lustick, in Foreign Policy, Number 68, Fall 1987, pp. 118–139
- For the land and the Lord : Jewish fundamentalism in Israel. New York, N.Y. : Council on Foreign Relations, 1988.
- Critical essays on Israeli society, politics, and culture, editors Ian S. Lustick and Barry Rubin. Albany : State University of New York Press, c1991. (xi, 204 p.)
- Unsettled states, disputed lands : Britain and Ireland, France and Algeria, Israel and the West Bank-Gaza. Ithaca, N.Y. : Cornell University Press, 1993
- Arab-Israeli relations : historical background and origins of the conflict, edited with introductions by Ian S. Lustick. New York : Garland, 1994. (xiii, 409 p.)
- Palestinians under Israeli rule, edited with introductions by Ian S. Lustick. New York : Garland, 1994 (xiv, 333 p).
- Economic, legal, and demographic dimensions of Arab-Israeli relations, edited, with introductions by Ian S. Lustick. New York : Garland Pub., 1994. (xii, 349 p.)
- Arab-Israeli relations in world politics, edited with introductions by Ian S. Lustick. New York : Garland Pub., 1994. (xiii, 345 p.)
- The Conflict with the Arabs in Israeli politics and society, edited with introductions by Ian S. Lustick. New York : Garland, 1994. (xi, 369 p.)
- The conflict with Israel in Arab politics and society, edited with introductions by Ian S. Lustick. New York : Garland Pub., 1994. (xii, 393 p.)
- From war to war : Israel vs. the Arabs, 1948-1967, edited with introductions by Ian S. Lustick. New York : Garland Pub., 1994. (xii, 321 p.)
- From wars toward peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict, 1969-1993, edited with introductions by Ian S. Lustick. New York : Garland Pub., 1994. (xiii, 355 p.)
- "The absence of Middle Eastern great powers : political "backwardness" in historical perspective", International Organization, 1997 (51):4, pp. 653–683.
- "Lijphart, Lakatos, and consociationalism", World Politics, 1997 (50):1, pp. 88–117 
- Right-sizing the state : the politics of moving borders, edited by Brendan O'Leary, Ian S. Lustick and Thomas Callaghy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001
- Exile and return : predicaments of Palestinians and Jews, edited by Ann M. Lesch and Ian S. Lustick. Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, c2005.
- Trapped in the War on Terror. Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, c2006. (xii, 186p.)
- 'What Counts is the Counting: Statistical Manipulation as a Solution to Israel’s “Demographic Problem”, Middle East Journal, Volume 67, No. 2, Spring 2013 pp. 185–205