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

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...

Judicial Overreach

(February 10, 2004) It's not clear who should have been celebrating when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in early February that the state has to provide gay couples the right to marry and nothing less. The decision barred the Massachusetts legislature from adopting a law authorizing "civil unions" in which "spouses" would have "all the same benefits, protections, rights and responsibilities under law as are granted to spouses in a marriage." Not enough, the judges declared, guaranteeing that Massachusetts legislators would put before the state's voters a constitutional amendment reversing the court's decision and galvanizing conservatives across the country to add a ban on gay marriage to the federal constitution. Meanwhile, New Jersey enacted a law allowing same-sex (and other) couples to enter into "domestic partnerships" that carry most of the rights and obligations of a marriage. The New Jersey statute isn't actually as broad as the Massachusetts civil-union...

Afterword: Troubled Amendments

This article is a February 17 update of Paul Starr's earlier column 'Judicial Overreach' . Even if Massachusetts legislators pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage when they reconvene on March 11, their initial failure to reach an agreement in February points to a more general impediment in the way of a constitutional amendment at the national level. But that impediment by no means ensures that such an amendment will fail. In Massachusetts, according to The New York Times , the 199 members of the legislature have split three ways. About 40 support same-sex marriage, roughly 90 oppose same-sex marriage but approve of civil unions, and 60 to 70 conservatives reject both alternatives. Although the advocates of civil unions are still expected to prevail, they were initially unable to win enough support from either of the other sides to command a majority. A similar division over civil unions among opponents of gay marriage is already evident in Congress. The amendment...

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