I recently watched a great miniseries on Netflix called The Tokyo Trial that recounted the war crimes tribunal which tried those in Japan after World War II. This trial happen after the famous Nuremberg Trials, was staged in its shadow, and had to uphold some of the precedents just recently adjudicated in Nuremberg.
In the film, the judges are seen privately deliberating the three categories of crimes in which the defendants are to be judged. The categories are crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and conventional war crimes. The most contentious debate was about crimes against peace, or stated another way, crime of aggression.
Here is the basic argument. Those who perpetrate war (and lose) should be punished for any aggression that they perpetrated during the war. Without getting too deep into the weeds of what constitutes a just war, one of the characters posed a conundrum that resonated with me. I will paraphrase:
War is hell. When a war is finished we look back and see the inhumanity that it is. We want to punish the losers for the inhumanity we bear witness to.
However, they argued, the world has not yet reached a place in which the inhumanity of war may be called a crime. War itself, and by extension the perpetration of war (it was argued) could not be considered a crime.
As I look around the world, and see the formal (and informal) violence that is perpetrated by individuals, groups, and nations, I wonder if we are any closer to the ideal that war itself should be a crime. I wonder if we will reach a point that we all see the hell of it, and do the work necessary to end war as a means to an end.