ld the US get involved in another civil war in the Middle East? Sure What could possibly go wrong? That seems to be the way the Libya debates trending here in DC. Ever generous with other Americans blood and treasure, Beltway polls and pundits are lining up behind a no-fly zone (for starters) and busily decrying President Obamas weakness.
And yet, the children may have learned something from coming of age during two seemingly interminable and fruitless wars. Thats whats suggested by a new survey from the Brookings Institution: DCs New Guard: What Does the Next Generation of American Leaders Think? Most polling on Millennials - roughly speaking, the generation born after 1979 - has focused on the general population. DCs New Guard took a different approach, polling more than 1,000 future leaders of the sort who attend National Student Leadership Conference programmes.
Its a survey of the type of kids who run for student government and choose to spend their summer vacations working in Washington, the authors explain, youth who already have the 'Washington bug and have set themselves towards a career in politics and policy. In other words ... creeps
If youre the rare bird who favours limited government at home and abroad, you can hardly expect good news from a poll of this generations Tracy Flicks. After all, arent these just the sort of model UN types whove always wanted to run the world?
Maybe not: The Brookings study contains some surprisingly encouraging findings about the attitudes of our future policy elites. When given a list of possible foreign policy actions and asked to prioritise them, our precocious politicos put build a stronger military force to ensure deterrence near the bottom. Moreover, nearly 58 per cent of these young leaders agreed with the statement that the US is too involved in global affairs and should focus on more issues at home. Only 10 per cent thought that the United States should be more globally proactive. This isolationist sentiment, the authors note, contrasts starkly with the views of older Americans, 67 percent of whom favoured a more active US role in the world, according to a 2010 poll.
But the kids are right: Our defence budget is nearly half what the rest of the world spends combined and larger than at the height of the Cold War. As my colleague Ben Friedman puts it, we defend allies that can defend themselves, fight in other peoples civil wars in a vain effort to 'fix their states and burn tax dollars to serve the hubristic notion that US military hegemony is what keeps the world safe.
Changing those policies would hardly constitute isolationism - a particularly odd charge, given that the Brookings survey shows that GenYs No 1 foreign policy priority is to strengthen the international economic system. In an unguarded moment recently, New Hampshire state House Speaker William OBrien explained why he favoured restricting college students ability to vote in-state: Voting as a liberal: Thats what kids do.
Whatever you think of his methods, OBrien was right about GenYs tendencies. In a 2009 report, the Center for American Progress called Millennials the Progressive Generation, backing up the claim with polls showing that GenY is substantially more likely to support universal health care, labour unions and education spending than older voters.
But theres at least one aspect of progressivism that GenY has soured on. Thats the crusading Wilsonian notion that its Americas duty to remake the world by force. In this case, at least, theyre far wiser than their elders. Washington Examiner