Explaining the Interbellum Rupture in Japanese Treatment of Prisoners of War

John Hickman


A puzzle is presented by the interbellum difference in the Japanese treatment of prisoners of war from faithful adherence to flagrant violation of international humanitarian law. This article first analyzes versions of the indoctrination in brutality thesis appearing in works of popular and scholarly history before articulating two constructivist accounts that explain the interbellum rupture. Where one constructivist account focusing on national political elites explains non-adherence yet fails to assign policy making responsibility to agents with power over prisoners of war, a second constructivist account focusing on theatre military elites both explains non-adherence and assigns the policy change responsibility to agents with power over prisoners of war.

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JMSS gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council.