Paul Starr

Paul Starr is co-founder and co-editor of the The American Prospect. and professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction and the Bancroft Prize in American history, he is the author of seven books, including most recently Remedy and Reaction: The Peculiar American Struggle over Heath Care Reform (Yale University Press, revised ed. 2013). Click here to read more about Starr.

Recent Articles

Prospects

It would have been a catastrophe for democracy itself if liberal leadership during the past century had been unequal to the challenges of national defense. But under Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the United States and its allies prevailed in both world wars. FDR and Harry Truman, advised by such “wise men” as George F. Kennan, created the alliances and international institutions that were foundations of U.S. security in the postwar era. And John F. Kennedy upheld and extended the same liberal internationalism at the height of the Cold War. Nonetheless, when John F. Kerry presented himself and his fellow Democrats at their July convention as a credible party of national defense, some observers were skeptical, as if this could only be a masquerade or a makeover instead of being rooted in a long tradition. The convention highlighted Kerry's own personal bravery in war, a narrative with obvious parallels to the biography of the original JFK. But there were more substantive...

The Return of Energy

Mr. Kerry, after four years of slothful leadership, the American people may be ready for the quality that the Framers referred to as “energy in the executive.” That energy, of course, can't be solely of your own making. Since the nation's founding, the eras that have decisively advanced democratic purposes have been built around a dynamic interplay of presidential leadership and popular movements. The transformational presidents have drawn energy from below even as they created energy of their own. Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson--not all rose to power out of the great movements of their time, but as president they articulated and championed the movements' aspirations and turned their ideas into enduring institutions. Fortunately, you have a lot more to work with than Bill Clinton did. In the 1990s, after decades of decline, progressive organizations and the Democratic...

Prospects

When other aspects of the Iraq War have long been forgotten, the images of American soldiers torturing Iraqis in Abu Ghraib prison will still be remembered. No, the soldiers who committed the abuse are not representative of Americans in Iraq, but the torture itself is representative of the perversion of American ideals and collapse of expectations in this misconceived war. Before the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration promised it would be an easy war: militarily easy because Saddam Hussein's army was so weak, financially easy because the country's oil would finance its own reconstruction, and morally unambiguous because Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and perpetrated abuses of human rights. And here we are, more than a year later -- our troops still taking casualties, billions more being spent, the weapons never found -- and we discover that torture has continued in one of Hussein's prisons. Only now Americans were responsible. As each of the promises of the Iraq...

Step Back

How long is the United States going to be in Iraq? And in whose hands and what shape are we going to leave it? Recent events ought to force us all to re-examine these questions no matter whether we opposed or supported the original invasion. As this magazine goes to press (April 12), U.S. forces in Iraq are facing battles on two fronts, with a new insurrection in Shia cities in addition to continued resistance in the Sunni heartland. Whether the Shia uprising will be a short-lived episode or the beginning of a protracted struggle is not yet clear. But it is all too plain that we have made no progress in creating an Iraqi political leadership or security force capable of maintaining the authority of a new government. Before undertaking the simultaneous campaigns against the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his militia and against the Sunni center in Fallujah (where four Americans had been brutally murdered), the U.S. occupation forces reportedly did not consult the Iraqi Governing...

Reclaiming the Air

This spring, if all goes according to plan, a new radio network with programs modeled after Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart will make its debut. The viewpoint of the venture is the big news. Air America Radio, as it's now being called, promises to be the first commercial network with a liberal political outlook in a medium that for years has been dominated by conservatives. Of all the media, radio has undergone the most decisive shift to the right during the past two decades. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and other conservative talk-show hosts do not merely outdraw and outnumber liberals; they have hardly any progressive competition at the national level. Although public-radio stations broadcast liberal voices, they do not offer a counterweight to the hard-right slant of talk radio and the express support that its biggest stars provide the Republican Party. Limbaugh played a critical role in the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 and in George W. Bush's...

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