The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Millennials embrace a long-standing tradition: Letting someone else fight their wars

Marine recruits stand in line before getting lunch in the chow hall during boot camp on February 26, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A quick little data nugget from the new Harvard Institute of Politics survey of people aged 18 to 29. (We looked at the economics earlier.)

The poll was conducted between Oct. 30 and Nov. 9, with a few questions asked again in the wake of the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris. One of those questions dealt with the willingness of young people to support the use of ground troops in the fight against the Islamic State. Before the attacks in Paris, 47 percent of the people surveyed supported the use of ground troops. After the attacks, that jumped up 13 percentage points, to 6 in 10 adults under 30 years old.

But the very next question added more context. "If the United States needed additional troops to combat the Islamic State," the pollsters asked, "how likely would you be to serve?"

To that question, 85 percent of respondents said they'd probably or definitely not join the military.

In other words, at least 45 percent of people under the age of 30 would like to send troops to fight the Islamic State but wouldn't themselves be willing to go.

This is not a new phenomenon in the post-draft world, to be sure, but it is one that will apparently survive into another generation.