The spring of 2024 marks the 25th anniversary of the NATO war on Serbia. The U.S.-led, unprovoked attack violated the UN Charter and had no authorization in the NATO Charter. Not only was I angry at the breach of international law and norms, but as an American, I was mortified because the war violated the Constitution. President Clinton started it without any kind of Congressional authorization.

I grew up during the Cold War and bought into the idea that NATO was a defensive military alliance. However, by intervening in Serbia's civil war in Kosovo, NATO asserted itself as Europe's policeman. And the precedent of NATO aggression was set; twelve years later, NATO's "policing" expanded into Africa as it launched an unprovoked war on Libya.

These days, I don't even know of all the countries that the U.S. is bombing or has sent combat troops to, nor do I know how many of these wars are under the cover of NATO.

But ever since that Kosovo attack, I've perceived NATO as an aggressor in the world, not a defensive alliance. I've viewed NATO as Russia or China would perceive it—a group of puppet states whose ruling classes profit as vassals for the U.S. Empire. NATO expansion has been nothing less than the extension of that empire.

Three NATO members—the U.S., the UK, and France—are permanent United Nations Security Council members. Russia and China are the others. Permanent members have veto power over Council resolutions.

This arrangement is a relic of World War II, as those countries were the major powers on the winning side (although France and China, by themselves, were hardly victorious militarily). These permanent members were in the best position to prevent defeated Germany, Japan, and Italy from rising again.

But the veto power also gave those permanent members unilateral discretion. Even if the Council voted to condemn aggression by the U.S., Russia, or another permanent member, that member could veto the resolution. And if an ally of a permanent member were behaving badly, it, too, would be protected from condemnation with a veto.

The UN Security Council structure doesn't incentivize its permanent members to act peacefully; quite the opposite. It frees the leaders of these countries to feel morally entitled to "act," that is, to start wars, in the name of "regional stability," "humanitarianism," "freedom," or "democracy."

The 1999 aggression against Serbia made me realize that NATO wasn't a defensive organization at all; it was a tool of American interests. And this made me question other venerable organizations. The United Nations wasn't founded to preserve and promote peace, but to advance the interests of the five permanent Security Council members.

International organizations are the tools of powerful countries, whose leaders proclaim peace and promise aid while they devour the resources of weaker nations. Yes, they often broker peace, because more often than not, peace is in the best interests of powerful nations. But peace isn't their goal; preserving power is. They'll go to war not when necessary for survival but whenever it is profitable for the people who put them in office.

I find it unlikely that the leaders of the five permanent member countries will ever be the ones to bring about any kind of permanent peace. Even if they are replaced by their political rivals, I don't see how the new leadership will change the incentives.

We can't count on them to be persons of conscience and goodwill any more than we can count on the boss of a crime family to do the right thing. Just as we can't expect a corporate CEO to prioritize employee welfare over profits, we can't expect the head of a major country to sacrifice power for the sake of peace. They'll go to war when it's convenient for them and when they expect to benefit politically.

From Ukraine to Gaza, I hope the world's most powerful leaders will bring about cease-fires and allow humanitarian aid. But if they cared about death and human suffering, they would have taken meaningful action long ago.

Just as a cobra won't defang itself, so those in power won't relinquish power. Anyone who seizes power and starts with the best of intentions will become just like them. And they'll go to war to extend that power.

Perhaps it is on us, as individuals, to put people first, above our nationality or religious identity. My country is not my friend; my friend is my friend, and my friend can be from any country.

When we refuse to give up our lives for our country, and especially when we refuse to kill for our country, then we will have peace among nations and people.