Apparently, the Aes Sedai instituted the Three Oaths because they were afraid that, without the assurance that they wouldn't war against normal humans, they would be hunted or wiped out by others.
However, given how impressive their combat magic is, how was that ever a possibility? In the Great Hunt we see damane blowing up/sinking ships for example. If they were fighting from a fortified position (say behind the walls of Tar Valon), I can't see how a military force, without channeling and with only the level of technology and logistics we see in the WOT world, could have any chance at all.
And it seems established that channelers have weakened both in numbers and power over the millennia since the Breaking [until Nynaeve et al. show up], so they would have been more numerous and powerful when the Oaths wee established way back when.