Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Political Science


In this chapter, I briefly outline the dependent variable in this case, the various units actively engaged in combat in Malaya between 1948 and 1952. I then explore the most common explanations for the Scots Guards’ actions and reveal why they are not helpful in explaining why other units did not similarly kill civilians. To better understand this variation, I explore three alternative explanations: Did the military socialize units in the laws of war and appropriate behavior toward civilians? Did government leaders encourage units to kill civilians? Finally, did different units’ subcultures make them more likely to kill civilians? I find that while the British military and senior leaders did not adequately socialize units to accept the laws of war, some junior leaders were able to discipline their units and prevent participation in war crimes. Some junior leaders, however, refused to enforce organizational norms and supported a countercultural subculture that resisted tactical innovation and may have contributed to the unit’s participation in war crimes.