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

A War for Democracy?

Like Woodrow Wilson during World War I, George W. Bush has held out the promise that by going to war, America can make the world safe for democracy. Once Saddam Hussein is ousted, we can turn Iraq into a political and economic model for the Arab world, addressing the causes of terrorism at their roots. Some liberals who support the war are attracted by this vision -- and indeed it has its attractions. But just as the outcome of World War I dashed the hopes of pro-war progressives and set the stage for an even more terrible conflict, so war in Iraq may bring not just disappointment but further cycles of bloodshed. Deep-seated political realities ought to make us skeptical about the likelihood of an American-led democratic revolution in the Middle East. After World War I, Wilson's promises of popular self-determination were betrayed partly because America's allies had no intention of fulfilling them. In the Mideast today, the United States is similarly allied with regimes distinctly...

The Easy War

"If you want peace, understand war," the military historian B. H. Liddell Hart once wrote, and during the past century -- some would say ever since Gen. Sherman's march through Georgia -- that injunction meant anyone interested in peace needed above all to understand the practice of "total war." Total war overflowed earlier boundaries. Instead of limited firepower aimed only at men in uniform, total war called for far greater levels of violence directed at civilians and soldiers alike, and at home meant all-out mobilization of economic resources, science, the mass media and public opinion. This was the experience of the two world wars, and the Cold War threatened to give the paradigm its ultimate expression in the form of "mutual assured destruction." The 20th century was, in the sociologist Raymond Aron's phrase, the "century of total war." Now, with weapons of an even greater sophistication, Americans contemplate war of nearly the opposite kind in Iraq. Our technological edge is so...

The Repudiation Syndrome

S ince Lyndon Johnson, every Democrat who has run for president has suffered repudiation within his own party after either serving in office or losing the election. Democrats repudiated Johnson because of the Vietnam War, Jimmy Carter because of the economy and Bill Clinton because of his personal conduct, and they repudiated George McGovern, Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis for their seeming personal inadequacy in the crucible of political battle. Seen in this context, the widespread rejection of Al Gore within the Democratic Party after the 2000 election is less an idiosyncratic event than a new instance of a persistent syndrome. Like the other defeated candidates, Gore has suffered a kind of ritual denigration and shunning, as everything about him has come to be seen through the lens of political disappointment. Democrats continue to harbor the illusion that they are the majority party in America. When their presidential candidates lose, the reflexive response among many in the...

A Reckless Rush to War

T he suspicion will not die that the Bush administration turned to Iraq for relief from a sharp decline in its domestic political prospects. The news had been dominated for months by corporate scandals and the fall of the stock market, and the November elections were shaping up as a referendum on the Republicans' handling of domestic social and economic issues. Investigative reporters had turned their attention to Dick Cheney's role at Halliburton and George W. Bush's sale of his Harken Energy shares just before the stock collapsed. Then, like magic, these questions disappeared from the headlines as the administration refocused the nation's attention on war with Iraq. No new information about Saddam Hussein's efforts to acquire nuclear weapons and no actions taken by Iraq seem to have precipitated this shift. The Iraqi regime has not changed since early in the Bush administration, when its great priority was building a missile defense shield, nor even since the 2000 election, when...

No Choice but War?

I should be among the supporters of an invasion of Iraq. A decade ago, after Iraq seized Kuwait, I agreed with the decision to go to war and wrote in The New Republic , at the start of the conflict, that allied forces should go all the way to Baghdad. My view was that Saddam Hussein had forfeited the legitimacy of his regime, and, having resolved not to let his aggression stand, we ought to deny him any chance for revenge. When the first President Bush called off our attack, I was bitterly disappointed. Eleven years later, I have no doubt that Saddam is a menace, but the circumstances are different today. Then, Iraq violated the sovereignty of another state, and our response affirmed the framework of international law and security. Now, we would be violating Iraq's sovereignty without clear provocation, undertaking a preemptive war that is itself a destabilizing threat to international security. Then, we had overwhelming international support; now, we face overwhelming opposition...

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