The Restless Realist

I grew up in the town of Winchester outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I attended Bates College in Lewiston Maine, before receiving a in degree Iranian studies from the University of St. Andrews, and a Phd in the History of International Relations from the London School of Economics. I have worked in the US Senate, as a debate coach for private schools, and in the fall of 2019 was offered a role on the National Security Council as a speechwriter for the National Security Adviser.

I begin collecting my thoughts online more than 15 years ago. I have long struggled with procrastination, especially when undertaking large projects, and ensuring that I had written at least one thing every day helped me manage my time and feel productive. I not create this site or any of its predecessors with the attention of promoting my career. If anything, the prevalence of my written material in the public domain has been an inconvenience. I have, however, received extensive attention, especially when my work on the Russia-Ukraine conflict in 2014 was promoted by Andrew Sullivan, or when my earlier research on the 2009 Iranian Presidential Elections was featured by Nate Silver of Fivethirtyeight.

My goal has been to explore issues that interest me. I am a natural contrarian, but an unusual one. Most contrarians disagree with the consensus on principle and adopt an opposite position. When faced with the conventional wisdom on an issue, their assumption is all too often that the other side is lying or wrong. My experience, both in politics and academia is that all too often the opposite is true. There are more than enough facts in the world to support either side of most arguments, and the question is not whether one side or the other is lying, but why one side or even both are missing the point even while advocating ideas that make sense.

I am happy to be be contacted and will try and reply. Due to the sensitivity of certain career pursuits, I have not been particularly responsive to messages over the last few years, a defect I will endeavor to remedy going forward.


Daniel Berman

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My Research

Phd Dissertation - London School of Economics 2020
Title: Playing the Patron: Croatian-American Relations and the Development of American Policy in Yugoslavia: From the collapse of Yugoslavia to Tudjman’s ‘Storm’, 1989- 1995

Link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1qwk32k2Y0iC-6_EUgxS2wtqs9F2Q40UG/view?usp=sharing

Abstract:

Between 1989 and 1995 American policy-makers struggled with breakup of Yugoslavia. The greatest challenge facing American officials was not ancient hatreds or the complexities of diplomacy but their own inability to define policy-objectives which could be reconciled with the region’s importance or lack thereof to the United States. The United States wanted to preserve Yugoslavia, but not enough to pay the costs needed for success. The United States later wanted to secure an independent Bosnia, but not enough to jeopardized interests elsewhere in the world or to risk American lives. Virtually every major Yugoslav player in 1989 was convinced that securing American support was vital to their own success. That American officials failed to reconcile themselves to their actual leverage prevented the United States from taking advantage of this belief. Instead, it was Croatia led by Franjo Tudjman that managed to take advantage of the failures of American policy-makers to define clear objectives to coopt American influence. Ultimately, the United States settled for an end to the fighting in the region on whatever terms could be sold domestically and international as a victory. Tudjman delivered that victory on the ground in exchange for American legitimization of his objectives, and then used the prospect that America would only legitimize a peace on his terms to secure the agreement of the other Yugoslav parties. America secured a peace agreement, but one that was less favorable to all parties except for the Croats than could have been achieved earlier.

Utilizing newly declassified documents and multi-archival research, this thesis will demonstrate how a failure to reconcile means with objectives defined American policy towards Yugoslavia, and Franjo Tudjman’s grasp of this dynamic enabled him to emerge as America’s partner in the region. 

MLitt Dissertation - University of St. Andrews 2009
Title: The Virtues of Consistency: Self-Interest, Visions of the State, and Ideological Consistency on the Iranian Right

Link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1EAlrkxReJ80w1RwekR4wFCySqJGogqoh/view?usp=sharing

Abstract:

My Dissertation attempted to show consistency in ideology among Iranian Clerical Right-wingers from the 1980s to the mid 2000s. Traditionally there is a narrative that in the 1980s the Left, associated with Prime Minister(and 2009 Presidential candidate) Mir Hossein Mousavi were radicals who pushed redistributive economic policies and an evangelicals foreign policy while those around then-President and later Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei opposed the Iran-Iraq war and favored free-market policies at home. Then with Ahmadinejad they changed course and embraced so-called radical policies abroad. I argued that intellectual consistency actually existed, using my own translations of the writings of leading Iranian clerics.

BA History Dissertation - Bates College 2009
Title: The Virtues of Flexibility: The Underrated Chancellorship of Franz von Papen

Link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1cjQDMJQ64mtI6TY5wzFhoN8HVi_wpzqp/view?usp=sharing

Abstract: This thesis set out to present the argument that the strategy followed by Von Papen, Hitler's predecessor as Chancellor, far from being futile, was perhaps the best strategy and showed signs of success before being prematurely abandoned.