Berman, Larry 1951–
Berman, Larry 1951–
Born April 29, 1951, in Bronx, NY; son of Irving (a judge) and Selma (a teacher) Berman; children: Scott, Lindsay. Education: American University, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1973; Princeton University, M.A., 1975, Ph.D., 1977.
Author and educator. University of California, Davis, assistant professor, 1977-80, associate professor, 1981-85, then professor of political science, 1985—, chair of department, 1989-97; University of California, Washington Center, director, 1999—.
American Political Science Association (president, presidency research group, 1993-95; member, John Gaus Award committee, 1995), Academy of Political Science.
Research grants from Harry S. Truman Library Institute, 1976, Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, 1976, National Science Foundation, 1976, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, 1976, 1978, and 1985, American Philosophical Society, 1981, and Russell Sage Foundation, 1981; American Council of Learned Societies fellowship, 1984; John Simon Guggenheim fellowship, 1985; Bicentennial Swedish-American Exchange Fund grant, 1986; Smith Richardson Foundation grant, Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation grant, and John M. Olin Foundation grant, all 1988; Skaggs Foundation grant, and Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation grant, both 1990; Richard E. Neustadt Book Award, American Political Science Association, 1990, for How Presidents Test Reality: Decisions on Vietnam, 1954 and 1965; Institute of Global Conflict and Cooperation grant, 1989-91; Carnegie Corporation grant, 1991; Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations Bernath Lecture Prize, 1993; named Outstanding Mentor of Women in Political Science, Women's Caucus for Political Science, 1996; Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio residency, 1998; resident fellow, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 1999.
(With Fred Greenstein and Alvin Felzenberg) Evolution of the Modern Presidency: A Bibliographical Survey, American Enterprise Institute Press (Washington, DC), 1977.
Planning a Tragedy: The Americanization of the War in Vietnam, Norton (New York, NY), 1982.
The New American Presidency, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1987.
Lyndon Johnson's War: The Road to Stalemate in Vietnam, Norton (New York, NY), 1989.
(With Fred Greenstein and John Burke) How Presidents Test Reality: Decisions on Vietnam, 1954 and 1965, Russell Sage (New York, NY), 1989.
(Editor) Looking Back on the Reagan Presidency, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1990.
(Editor, with Ariel E. Levite and Bruce W. Jentleson) Foreign Military Intervention: The Dynamics of Protracted Conflict, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1992.
(With Bruce Allen Murphy and Oliver H. Woshinsky) Approaching Democracy, Prentice Hall (Upper Saddle River, NJ), 1996, 4th edition, 2002.
No Peace, No Honor: Nixon, Kissinger, and Betrayal in Vietnam, Free Press (New York, NY), 2001.
Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An, Time Magazine Reporter and Vietnamese Communist Agent, Smithsonian Books/Collins (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor to political science journals.
Larry Berman is an educator, political scientist, and author whose academic interests focus particularly on the U.S. presidency and the Vietnam War. He has consulted for several political documentaries and appeared as a guest on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) documentary The Public Mind: The Truth about Lies and the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) documentary Vietnam. In addition, Berman's course on the American presidency was listed as the most recommended class for undergraduates at the University of California—Davis in Lisa Birnbach's New and Improved College Guide. Also an expert on integrating technology into the classroom, Berman served as director of the Davis SunTREC, an advanced governmental technology center that develops Internet-based applications for research, education, and demonstration purposes. He has traveled to many countries, including China and Israel, lecturing on U.S. politics and policy as well as on multimedia in the classroom.
Berman's first book pertaining to Vietnam, Planning a Tragedy: The Americanization of the War in Vietnam, focuses on the United States' decision in 1965 to enter the war in Southeast Asia. He followed this with Lyndon Johnson's War: The Road to Stalemate in Vietnam, which further examines the political decisions and actions surrounding U.S. involvement in the long conflict. In an interview posted on the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Web site, Berman indicated that when he began research for the book that became No Peace, No Honor: Nixon, Kissinger, and Betrayal in Vietnam he was "much more interested in the politics of the disengagement process." He particularly hoped to determine what was meant by "peace with honor," a popular phrase during the Nixon-Kissinger years and one that, Berman remarked, was totally contradictory to the outcome reached in the Paris peace accords, which brought neither peace nor honor. "I was curious to know if there was historical documentation that would show anything different than the Nixon and Kissinger memoir accounts…. The archival documents revealed that there was no honor, and so that is how I ended up [with the book title]," Berman explained in his interview.
No Peace, No Honor was written after the author scrutinized the enormous store of documents that were declassified approximately a decade after the end of the war. These documents and tapes, which accumulated during the Nixon-Kissinger involvement in the Vietnam War, include transcripts of secret Paris peace talks between Kissinger and North Vietnamese President Le Duc Tho. Stanley I. Kutler noted, in a review of Berman's book for the Washington Post Book World, that Nixon and Kissinger fought fiercely to keep these records sealed in anticipation of writing their own version of events for the history books. Kutler remarked: "Berman probes hitherto classified sources and documents, measures them against Nixon's and Kissinger's version of events, and demolishes their accounts as utterly lacking in credibility." Noting that Berman is "renowned among Vietnam scholars for his documents-based research," American Prospect contributor Michael Nelson explained that the historian "has ingeniously drawn on sources as varied as the notes Kissinger's assistants took at the peace talks and the transcripts of both the public and the secret negotiating sessions kept by the Vietnamese."
In No Peace, No Honor Berman concludes that Nixon and Kissinger intended to continue an indefinite war, using the peace accord as a facade to entice other nations to support their policy. However, Foreign Affairs contributor Philip Zelikow claimed that the evidence in Berman's book does not sustain the author's conclusion. Zelikow instead characterized No Peace, No Honor as a "grim story that seems more a portrait of policymakers who kept hoping for peace with honor but kept settling for less." Other reviewers were more fully convinced of the accuracy of Berman's assessment. Calling Berman's work "provocative," Nation contributor Carolyn Eisenberg noted, "It is hardly a revelation that [the peace accord for which Kissinger and Le Duc Tho won the Nobel Peace Prize] … was a failure, but what Berman makes clear is that it was also a fraud." Kutler and others quoted Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, who participated in the negotiations to end the war, as noting: "There are at least two words no one can use to characterize the outcome of that two-faced policy. One is ‘peace.’ The other is ‘honor.’" These critics noted that Berman not only confirms Zumwalt's statement but agrees with conclusions reached by other respected historians of the era. Karl Helicher, reviewing No Peace, No Honor for Library Journal, commented that Berman clearly demonstrates that Nixon never sought a peaceful solution to the war, and the reviewer recommended the book as a "worthy choice for academic and most public libraries."
Berman continues his investigation of the Vietnam era in Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An, Time Magazine Reporter and Vietnamese Communist Agent. An, who was named General and Hero for his espionage activities by the Communist regime in Vietnam after the war, was "a trusted source for the era's best known reporters; his circle extended well beyond journalism to include the CIA's Lou Conein, Edward Lansdale and William Colby," Berman explained in an interview that appears on his Home Page: "He was friends with the most notable South Vietnamese politicians and generals." An had been a college student in the United States during the 1950s—sent there by the Communist party—and had developed, he told Berman, a great respect for the American people. "An insisted in extensive interviews with Mr. Berman, a left-leaning historian at the University of California—Davis, that he was never anti-American," Joseph Goulden wrote on the Osprey Media Web site: "only pro-Vietnam, and that he was motivated by patriotism. Many of the Americans he befriended agree."
Reviewers indicated that An's story could rehabilitate his reputation in the United States. "A handful of people have attacked him calling him a traitor. But a traitor to what? His country? I don't think so," declared Joel Wendland on the Politicalaffairs.net Web site. "And there is no evidence that he betrayed humanity, except in participating in a war effort along with millions of others—French, Vietnamese, US—he neither wanted nor started." Perfect Spy, concluded A.O. Edmonds, writing in Library Journal, is a "fascinating account of a complex man who loved his homeland, as well as the United States and the profession of journalism."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, June, 1980, review of The Office of Management and Budget and the Presidency, 1921-1979, p. 739; April, 2002, George C. Herrig, review of No Peace, No Honor: Nixon, Kissinger, and Betrayal in Vietnam, p. 574.
American Political Science Review, March, 1994, Karen A. Feste, review of Foreign Military Intervention: The Dynamics of Protracted Conflict, p. 256.
American Prospect, November 5, 2001, Michael Nelson, review of No Peace, No Honor, p. 42; July 1, 2006, "They've Got a Secret: A Scholar Learns That Even 40-year-old Papers Are Suddenly Off Limits," p. 11.
Booklist, July, 2001, Marlene Chamberlain, review of No Peace, No Honor, p. 1972.
Foreign Affairs, fall, 1990, Gaddis Smith, review of Looking Back on the Reagan Presidency; September-October, 2001, Philip Zelikow, review of No Peace, No Honor, p. 155.
International History Review, May, 1993, review of Foreign Military Intervention, p. 424.
Journal of American History, June, 1980, review of The Office of Management and Budget and the Presidency, 1921-1979, p. 202.
Journal of Military History, April, 1996, review of Lyndon Johnson's War: The Road to Stalemate in Vietnam, p. 339.
Library Journal, May 15, 2001, Karl Helicher, review of No Peace, No Honor, p. 138; April 15, 2007, A.O. Edmonds, review of Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An, Time Magazine Reporter and Vietnamese Communist Agent, p. 97.
Nation, November 5, 2001, Carolyn Eisenberg, review of No Peace, No Honor, p. 25.
New York Times Book Review, August 12, 2001, Jack F. Matlock, review of No Peace, No Honor, p. 11.
Presidential Studies Quarterly, spring, 1992, Robert E. Denton, review of Looking Back on the Reagan Presidency.
Public Administration Review, September 1, 1988, Richard M. Pious, review of The New American Presidency, p. 934.
Publishers Weekly, May 28, 2001, review of No Peace, No Honor, p. 58; March 26, 2007, review of Perfect Spy, p. 75.
Recorder, March 9, 2005, "Suing the CIA: The Agency Hides Far More than It Needs to Hide, Says Vietnam Scholar Larry Berman."
Reference & Research Book News, June, 1996, review of Approaching Democracy, p. 44; May, 1999, review of Approaching Democracy, 2nd edition, p. 127.
Washington Post Book World, July 29, 2001, Stanley I. Kutler, "Out of the Past," p. 5.
Larry Berman Home Page,http://www.larrybermanperfectspy.com (November 18, 2007).
Osprey Media,http://www.ospreymedia.us/ (November 18, 2007), Joseph Goulden, review of Perfect Spy.
Politicalaffairs.net,http://www.politicalaffairs.net/ (November 18, 2007), Joel Wendland, review of Perfect Spy.
University of California—Davis Web site,http://www.ucdc.edu/ (November 18, 2007), "Larry Berman."
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Web site,http://www.wilsoncenter.org/ (November 18, 2007), "Negotiating with the Enemy: New Book Reveals Secrecy and Betrayal in Vietnam," author interview.