The purpose of this paper is to arrive at an understanding of how Japan allowed herself to become involved in a conflict with such tragic proportions, for both Japan and others, as the Second World War.
In a reconstruction, a series of similarities in widespread, local occurrences within the Japanese authority structure that produced larger‐scale reactions, events that could neither undo nor even attenuate the triggering incidents, are described.
The “triggers” occurred almost entirely at the tactical level, ignited by small groups or individuals ignorant of implications higher in the hierarchy of possible outcomes. Emphasized is the causative factor of formalized insubordination, or gekokujô.
The thrust of the paper is to interpret exactly how Japan's lost war against China and the Western Allies began. There may be lessons in this analysis for institutions and organizations outside the military sphere when contemplating new initiatives, especially major departures.
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