This brief review of the evolution of just war theory appeared as Chapter 3 of Telford Taylor's Nuremberg and Vietnam:An American Tragedy, published in 1970. Taylor, a brigadier general at the end of World War II, served as U.S. Chief Counsel at Nuremberg. In this passage of his book he distinguishes between the specific laws of war and the more general theories of "just and unjust wars," tracing the latter from the time of Christ up through the considerations that led to the Nuremberg trials. He indicates in passing that the very early Christians numbered many pacifists, but credits St. Augustine with formulating a basic Christian position on just wars that received elaboration in the thirteenth century from St. Thomas Aquinas. Later theorists include Vitoria, Suarez, and Hugo Grotius (d. 1645), after whom little is added to just war theory until after World War I. Taylor indicates that the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact changed the general conception and terminology from "just and unjust wars" to "aggressive and defensive wars." He details the processes which led to the decision to bring charges against Axis leaders for the crime of initiating a war of aggression—charges never attempted previously.
Over the centuries of recorded history, warfare has shown a remarkable and, to most of us, distressing vitality as a staple ingredient of intercourse among families and tribes at first, and then peoples, religions, and nations. No doubt a continuing pessimism about the likelihood that war can be abolished has lent force to men's efforts
From Nuremberg and Vietnam:An American Tragedy, by Telford Taylor. Copyright © 1970 by The New York Times Book Company. Reprinted by permission of Times Books, a division of Random House, Inc.