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

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...

9-11, One Year Later

S eptember 11 will be commemorated this year as a day of national and private grief, but it is also a political anniversary. One year ago, the post–Cold War era came to an end and a new phase in our country's history began. What this new phase will be -- whether the September 11 attacks will stand as an isolated episode or initiate a longer and perhaps more dreadful chain of events -- we cannot possibly know. The past year, however, has already told us a great deal about the strengths and limitations of President George W. Bush's response to 9-11 and the definition that he has given to this new stage in our nation's life. In the immediate aftermath, the president got one critically important thing right: the prosecution of the war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Perhaps the United States should have obtained more international backing from the start. But because America was attacked, there was little serious question that we had the right of "hot pursuit" -- the right, that is, to...

Pages