2008 Volume 59 Issue 1 Pages 1_241-1_262
This article examines the struggle for the control of the army between the army and political parties.
In prewar Japan only military offices could assume the military ministers. It has commonly been accepted that this rule made it difficult for civilians to control the Army and it was the decisive power resource of the army. However, this view cannot explain why party cabinets between 1924 and 1932 failed to institutionalize civilian control over the army and how the army reacted to the establishment of party politics in this period.
This paper mainly provides two new views. First, in the 1920s, the army agreed reluctantly to give up military minister posts to parties due to the rise of parties. Second, in spite of this compromise of the Army, the Army still maintained these posts because the prime ministers and the army ministers agreed to avoid a rapid rule change and control the army by their leadership.
The failure of civilian control in prewar Japan did not stem solely from formal rules. Party cabinets could develop their power and control the Army by aggressively enforcing formal rules and taking their initiative. Yet, they failed to establish their political supremacy over the Army in the 1920s and it led to militarism afterward.