Departmental Bulletin Paper A Classical Liberal Reconsideration of the Japanese Military


The horrific conduct of the Japanese military during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War Two has left us the standard understanding that Imperial Japan's military has always and everywhere been savage and brutal. However, there was a time when it was celebrated not only for bravery but for chivalry, a time when - striving to catch up with the West - it actually surpassed the West in applyi11g to the conduct of war the rules of International Law, of the Geneva Conventions, and of general decency. During the 1920s and 1930s, though, Japan's military made an abrupt about-face. We look here at the two phases of Japan's military conduct, the "chivalrous" and the "brutal," and consider why and how the change happened. Then we consider what lessons a deeper and more complete understanding of Japan's military may have for East Asia and for the conduct of war in general.

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