The Foreign Service Journal, May 2024

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MAY 2024 91 and the reader—what moderation is and how it might be the go-to ideology for our current predicament. But Craiutu’s arguments and letters are for the most part a gentle admonishment to the headstrong young people. His strategy is consistent, as we learn, with both the character and values of a moderate. He does not pretend to offer a deft polemical rejection of radicalism or arguments that will immediately solve our emotionally charged polarization. One of the chief virtues of the book is how well Craiutu articulates the beliefs of the young radicals by quoting them at some length. They don’t seem to accept his counterarguments by any measure, and his responses take two primary paths. First, he cites august authorities whose views seem to challenge the views of the radicals. These come first in the form of epigraphs that introduce each chapter. Second, Craiutu does not question the radicals’ assumptions or probe for the alternative political systems they imagine, preferring gentle, indirect admonishments to such a riposte. Although the author is clearly a passionate advocate for political moderation, his soft approach is coherent. He understands that the students lack his own wider experience of living under both a liberal democracy and a less tolerant regime. Craiutu grew up under the brutal dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu in communist Romania, so perhaps his cautionary message should carry some weight with the fortunate, privileged youth of America. The book’s real merit is the exposition of the history of moderation as an idea, and a “fighting creed,” not the refuge of milksops or timid souls. Separate chapters introduce the concepts of trimming, compromise, centrism, eclecticism, pragmatism, and civility, and explain how they are components of moderation. One learns to see the value of moderation in its many dimensions. These well-researched expositions tend to return to prior descriptions of moderation—with repeated references to litmus tests, zero-sum struggles, all-out war, and lowering the temperature of debate—and widen our understanding. The description of moderation that emerges may even be a bit muddled. Craiutu calls it a personal tone, demeanor, or attitude—but also a set of views about politics and society. He goes well beyond equating moderation with modesty and humility. Moderates are called graceful, humorous, and not The book’s real merit is the exposition of the history of moderation as an idea, and a “fighting creed,” not the refuge of milksops or timid souls. BOOKS Moderation as a “Fighting Creed” Why Not Moderation? Letters to Young Radicals Aurelian Craiutu, Cambridge University Press, 2023, $24.95/hardcover, e-book available, 260 pages. Reviewed by Ken Moskowitz If you believe that political and social polarization is the chief threat to America today, Aurelian Craiutu has written an important and hopeful book. Craiutu, a professor of political science at Indiana University, has structured his book, Why Not Moderation?, in the form of dialogues between a scholar of moderate views and two young radicals of the far left and far right—Lauren and Rob, respectively. Both young radicals are inclined to “dump” Western liberal democracy in favor of something else. He plumps for political moderation, which he acknowledges is difficult to define but makes many attempts at it in this book. Craiutu does not challenge Lauren and Rob to explain what alternative political and social system they prefer to liberal democracy. He may well believe, along with Jonathan Haidt and other psychologists and philosophers, that direct intellectual challenges rarely change political ideologies because they are rooted in deeper intuitions or values based on personal experience. Instead, he writes letters to the passionate youths acknowledging the various social and political flaws in our liberal democracy that they cite. He then pivots to the many faces of moderation (the subject of one of his earlier books), in their historical and current guises. This broadly clarifies for Lauren and Rob—