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Japanese War Crimes during World War II: Atrocity and the Psychology of Collective Violence
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CHAPTER ONE On Violence and Perpetrators Before dealing with the specific dimensions of Japanese war crimes, it is impor tant to further analyze the theoretical aspects of violence, the perspectives of perpetrators, and how the likelihood of violent behavior in war increases. This analysis will serve as a precondition for a better understanding of violence, a factor of history that Hannah Arendt called a phenomenon of human action.1 The World Health Organization (WHO) defined violence as “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation.”2 However, when discussing violence, we must understand— as American psychologists Robin R. Vallacher and Christopher Brooks have emphasized—that violence “is not considered an end-state or a goal but rather a readily available means by which higher-order concerns can be redressed or goals can be achieved.”3 In human historical records, violence has always been used at the individual, group, or even state levels to achieve specific aims. Consequently, voluntary, planned, or direct violence, as well as invol- untary, affective, and indirect violence, has been used as tools for one’s own or society’s advantage. Arendt highlighted the importance of violence within this historical process when she stated that “no one engaged in thought about history and politics can remain unaware of the enormous role violence has always played in human affairs and it is at first glance rather surprising that violence has been singled out so seldom for special consideration.”4 Arendt even went a step further and declared violence to be the “midwife of history,” but also a force that “creates history as less as the midwife creates the child.”5 Whenever the individual or societal interests lead to a dichot- omy, the danger of violent outbreaks increases much like power, strength, and authority, violence is a tool to dominate others.6