How could Japan keep the Army and Navy under Control

Pretty much the title. I've read a fair bit about how the Army and Navy in Imperial Japan circumvent the civilian government and act independently. That causes some issues for Japan both internally and externally so it seems like a pretty big issue that would have to be solved in order to have a more successful Japan. But what exactly could the Japanese government have done after the Meiji restoration to keep the armed forces in check? I have the thread in this section because the restoration was pre-1900 but if you think the difference would be post-1900 I'd still love to hear why
 
- more active Emperor ?
- letting Diet interfere in promotion of flag-level officers ?
- strong Chief of Staff
- better officer academies ?
- Imperial Guard ? Nobles Guard ? provincial National Guard ?

Problem with Japanese military is that they carry aspiration of upwardly mobile new middle class who want glory, status, and better economy. Serving as officers (which carry two swords, like old samurai classes) ,won foreign war and acquire colonies fulfill all that need. So change in Japanese society to allow more mobile nonmilitary occupations is necessary. Limiting zaibatsu, more universities, larger bureaucracies, more liberal politics ?
 
Pretty much the title. I've read a fair bit about how the Army and Navy in Imperial Japan circumvent the civilian government and act independently. That causes some issues for Japan both internally and externally so it seems like a pretty big issue that would have to be solved in order to have a more successful Japan. But what exactly could the Japanese government have done after the Meiji restoration to keep the armed forces in check? I have the thread in this section because the restoration was pre-1900 but if you think the difference would be post-1900 I'd still love to hear why
You need a social class can keep the armed forces in check, strong civilian police on government call and keep the army on check...a stronger emperor and diet at once?
 
A combined defense ministry instead of the army and navy having their own representatives in government.
Whoever heads the ministry can't be active duty.

Don't ask Prussia for advice.
 
The problem is that most of Japanese wanted colonies/Co-prosperity sphere, so when soldiers started to kill the politicians for not being active enough, the most of the people didn't think that they did something really wrong.
 
A lot could be said about this but my primary answer would be firmly in the the post-1900 period. Hirohito needed to to more forcefully renounce the various attacks perpetrated by militarists during his early reign. His silence tacitly encouraged further coup attempts and assassinations. Eventually the power of the political class eroded and with that came a lack of checks and balances, allowing the military to more freely intervene in both internal and foreign affairs.
 
I'd suggest a change to the laws of Japan removing the requirement (introduced in 1900 with the Military Ministers to be Active-Duty Officers Law) that every cabinet include a serving general. Since the law was introduced and repealed several times, this would probably need an earlier introduction of a clear norm- preferably enshrined in law- that cabinet ministers not be active-duty members of the military. In the run-up to the Second World War the armed forces brought down the government of Kazushige Ugaki, whose policies they disapproved of by simply having all general officers refuse to serve in cabinet. Without that ability, the military wouldn't be able to control the government without direct action- and none of the violent coup attempts in Japan in the 1930s succeeded.
 
The problem is that most of Japanese wanted colonies/Co-prosperity sphere, so when soldiers started to kill the politicians for not being active enough, the most of the people didn't think that they did something really wrong.
Most countries of the time wanted overseas empires, but very few saw the various branches of the military acting as basically semi-independent sub-states.
 
act independently.
The answer is in the question. What was the action? What problem were they responding to, and why was their response necessary?

On land the problem is Nationalist China as a political entity and Chinese nationalism as a belief. This group of perpetually disappointed exiles, representatives of every bitter and vengeful trend in Chinese thought, every deferred dream and vendetta since 1911, consorted with the global Bolshevik menace to build a war machine and in only two years seared their brand across the entirety of the country. Two years. Of course the problem with going so fast is that they never really defeated most of their enemies along the way-- the break with the Communists in 1927 and the Central Plains War of 1930 showed that the new order in China would be much more ambiguous than the glorious future advertised in the 1920s-- but the impression is made. Longstanding political ferment plus decisive military action equals a new, much less accommodating climate for Japanese political and business concerns in China, which for decades have been a law in themselves. How important are those concerns? Well, processing of Manchurian soy in the Kwantung Leased Territory and beyond paid Japan's bills through WWI-- Europe bought soybean oil to cope with its consumer goods shortages and so on, not to mention the use of soy as food and fertilizer in Japan. This isn't just a few businessmen going in the red, this is (for a militarist) national survival at stake. And the liberal government of the 1920s (according to the militarists) just let it happen.

On sea the problem is American might and British unreliability. The Anglo-Japanese Alliance was endlessly beneficial for both; it made excellent military and economic sense. It was even a conduit for the liberal ideas that actually experienced a renaissance after WWI-- the PR campaign to portray the Entente victory and pygmy wars in Eastern Europe as a springtime of nationhood and liberalism was in full swing, and the "militarist" tendency in Japanese politics actually wore itself out in the IJA intervention in the Russian Civil War. This was Japan's most unpopular war, bodies coming home in boxes for no clear political result, and it led to Japan's first antiwar campaign and protests by the press and public. The liberal 1920s are sometimes just brushed off as Taisho's mental issues and the old Meiji oligarchy aging and dying off, but that ignores the development of a more politically aware and progressive tendency in the public. But even as it emerged this tendency was having its feet cut out from under it. The Anglo-Japanese alliance ended because America couldn't stand the idea of a bloc stronger than it within the Pacific-- the Washington naval conference might have still allowed the US, Britain, and Japan to have the largest naval quotas in town but the parallel policy was meant to ensure that the only acceptable alliance between these three would be America + friend vs. the assigned loser. If you're wondering who that is, the American riots against Japanese immigrants are a giveaway. Again, the liberal government, which might have been an adequate response for an earlier problem, offers no solution to the new ones.

Japanese militarism wasn't exclusively an officer movement, Manchukuo-- where militarism became a ruling ideology before its conquest of Japan-- offers a good cross section. The two most important constituencies besides the officers were both civilian. On the one hand the "reform bureaucrats", ideological dandies who tried on fascism and Marxism like fashion statements, but whose common background as graduates of prestigious law schools (Tokyo Imperial, represent) and belief in their ability to personally engineer a national revival from within an activist state of their design let them act as a coherent group in Manchuria and Japan. On the other, not the old zaibatsu but new concerns like Nissan, looking for a chance to flourish outside of the uncompetitive environment within Japan itself. These businessmen, bureaucrats, and officers turned out to be very complementary groups, you can take any pair among them and talk about similarities like the wish for greater status and so on. For the bureaucrats and officers-- both are products of elite education systems, even if they don't enter as elites they walk out as elites, very concerned with national and international matters and feeling like they deserve their say. Foreign policy would of course be a favorite pet subject of both and the officers specifically are trained to view it in the context of interstate competition. And the foreign policy situation is as outlined above. It's not getting better fast-- in fact it has been, and still can, get much worse and scarily fast.

So what if Hirohito condemns them? What, does he have a better solution? When the Nationalist government proclaimed its sovereignty in China and called for renegotiation of the unequal treaties, Japan was the last country to recognize the new government and dragged its feet thereafter. That's not militarism, that's civilian bigotry. They don't like the new reality but all they can do is be petty and mean, like the Chinese even care. Could the Japanese government have had a more coherent response to the problems piling up at their door? Maybe. China certainly doesn't make it easy-- the presence of several practically independent regional strongmen makes it so you almost have to disrespect Nanjing's sovereignty and conduct direct diplomatic relations with those strongmen, in order to get anything done. But at the same time, so much of the Chinese elite was educated in Japan (large chunks of Sun Yat-sen's revolutionary organizations, Beiyang and anti-Beiyang officers and warlords), there's a fairly consistent current of respect for Japan, even Japanophilia, that coexists with anti-Japanese resentment-- the latter sentiment obviously more common among those whose experience of Japanese people isn't studying at Tokyo Imperial but getting shorted on this month's pay, but the elite doesn't have to be representative of the people if they can avoid it.

Could some magnanimous gesture (not too magnanimous-- the South Manchurian Railway was Japan's biggest corporation, can't give that up) by Japan have paved the way for negotiations toward a peaceful but still very biased and unequal arrangement with China? It worked for Britain, which had friends on the Nationalist side from early on and managed to make sure the head of the Chinese Customs Service would still be a British national. And in KMT China it's all about friends... sometimes you go to war with your friends, but in the end, all friends get a seat at the table because you never know when they will be useful. Whether Japan could have done it, we'll never know, because the official policy was hostility without substance. The militarists and civilian fellow travelers, their contribution was only-- Put your money where your mouth is. We'll kill you if you don't. And then you'll kill us, but we're only popping bags of hot air, while you're making martyrs.

A lot could be said about this but my primary answer would be firmly in the the post-1900 period. Hirohito needed to to more forcefully renounce the various attacks perpetrated by militarists during his early reign. His silence tacitly encouraged further coup attempts and assassinations. Eventually the power of the political class eroded and with that came a lack of checks and balances, allowing the military to more freely intervene in both internal and foreign affairs.
This. What Japan needed was a strongman on the throne. Neither Taisho nor Showa did Meiji proud in that regard.

A strongman has to stand for some cause, his own enrichment if nothing else. A non-militarist policy can't just be the absence of militarism, it has to be a workable plan for achieving the same goals in a better way. If Hirohito is really willing to do even a fraction of all that it would already make him the most activist emperor since Go-Daigo. A very extreme break with tradition to say the least, and probably as corrosive to the Meiji constitutional system as militarist assassinations.

Does not having Hirohito on deck hurt the militarist cause? Sure, in that it kneecaps the ideologues portraying militarism as something it's not, as a national rejuvenation and rededication, something even better than the undoubtedly-great Meiji Restoration. But this isn't a climate of politics by mass parties that would take a long time to replace if destroyed, but constellations of smaller groups linked by personal ties, belief, or convenience that can reconfigure into something new if the old way doesn't work. Hell some of these groups are forerunners to the modern yakuza, unions of crime and political fanaticism. If the law casts them out, they'll be outlaws. It will be a longer road to power and justifying that power might require Hirohito to be replaced, they might even be "too late" for war in that their enemies have already gotten their shit together and the opportunity's gone. But then in that case what kills the militarist cause will be that war can no longer be credibly portrayed as the solution, not that the workable (according to militarists) solution didn't have Hirohito's permission.

The problem is that most of Japanese wanted colonies/Co-prosperity sphere, so when soldiers started to kill the politicians for not being active enough, the most of the people didn't think that they did something really wrong.

A bit extreme but I generally agree. However even if the conquest of Manchuria turned out to be a very popular fad, even a craze, that played out through the press and media and saw many previously moderate figures making some very rabid remarks, I don't know if we can say that support for a few months of victorious war necessarily meant support for an unending slog through Asia and war against the whole world at once. Part of the attraction of the Manchurian campaign was that it only affected part of China and (granted, this is very optimistic, and quickly revealed as untrue) might spook the rest into acting more nicely.


A combined defense ministry instead of the army and navy having their own representatives in government.
Whoever heads the ministry can't be active duty.

Don't ask Prussia for advice.
Most countries of the time wanted overseas empires, but very few saw the various branches of the military acting as basically semi-independent sub-states.
Sure, these are vulnerabilities that might have been patched out early on, but the period in which the armed forces acted most like "independent substates"-- the actions of the 1930s had some tenuous precedents like the killing of Queen Min, but those weren't anywhere near the same kind of affront to the state's right of leadership in peace and war-- also saw them at civil war within themselves, as junior officers plus outliers within the senior ranks were behind the more outrageous actions of the 1930s. If anything the constitutional vulnerabilities were only used for a creative, extralegal resolution of that civil war-- executing or sidelining the uncontrollable, in order to steal their agenda and run it under more responsible leadership. Asked if it's a good idea you shrug and say events have made it inevitable, but now that you're in charge it'll be smooth sailing.
 
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Most of my info on this type of thing comes from the threads on this site. Because of that I have a lot of info but not very many sources, if someone wants to offer any helpful reading from this time period and area that would be great
 
I agree with most of what LostInDelhi said. In my opinion, the biggest issues are:

1. Nationalism and education: the Meiji Restoration and its aftereffects (namely the Russo-Japanese war and economic growth) massively boosted the Japanese sense of unity and sense of superiority towards other Asians. Suddenly Japan was a mover and shaker: a colonial power who could extract concessions from other nations. Education, which was made compulsory and standardized, created a feedback loop where teacher, already full of national pride, would instill this as a core virtue in the next generation. The army, which had initially been a great equaliser and opportunity for the lower classes, was now itself a power player. Schools taught young Japanese men that this was natural and right.

2. Desire for economic expansion: if Japan is now a colonial power who can extract concessions, why shouldn't they? Companies who were selling high quality Japanese goods now had to compete with European and international products, meaning they could sometimes get better success by expanding to new markets. Once Japanese business interests expanded overseas, the army followed. Why should Japanese merchants be threatened by some upstart locals? They are honest men and should be protected. Japan saw how Europeans had acted, and now that they were on the same level, they thought it was only natural Japan should act the same way.

3. National interests: the anglo-japanese alliance was critical for sea power, but how much can Japan expand overseas? Most routes of expansion were blocked by European colonies, defended or guaranteed by alliances. Thus, the only route of expansion in the short term was China or Russia. Once a foothold was gained in Korea and later Manchuria, it became in Japan's best interest to protect those areas by meddling in affairs across the border. The nationalism and business interests also played a part in this. Eventually, the only logical conclusion was complete subjugation of China.

So basically I think Japanese militarism needs to be prevented very early on.
 
Most of my info on this type of thing comes from the threads on this site. Because of that I have a lot of info but not very many sources,
Tends to be the problem with spending too much time around here. I think spending time off to read on my own has helped me contribute better to discussions.
if someone wants to offer any helpful reading from this time period and area that would be great
Personally I have not so much read about Imperial Japan itself as about various topics one degree of separation away, mostly China and Manchukuo. Sadako Ogata's "Defiance in Manchuria" is an account of the genesis of "militarism" in the Manchurian conquest, and Janis Mimura and Prasenjit Duara have good books about Manchurian history over the next decade and a half.

I think that there's no wrong answer for "What should I read first?", since anything you read will probably still throw something interesting at you to read about next.
 
A Meiji Constitution explicitly establishing the civilian government being in charge of the military, and requirements for officers to take oaths off loyalty to said government?
 
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