I Sued Obama to Stop Him From Sending Troops to War Without Asking Congress. I Failed. Trump Is Reaping the Reward | Opinion

Qasem Soleimani was no friend to America. No American should mourn his death. Hundreds of American soldiers are maimed or in their graves due to his efforts over the last fifteen years. But there is a difference in having the power to use the world's most lethal military to take out an enemy, and having the prudence not to do so when the consequences unleashed may be dire.

Three and a half years ago, I sued President Obama. At the heart of the lawsuit was a question, which, if answered by the judiciary, had the possibility of shaking the foundation of America's current era of Forever War. What was the question? I asked if President Obama, unilaterally and without explicit Congressional consent, had the authority to deploy U.S. troops into combat indefinitely in the war against ISIS.

Many emotions drove me to sue the president of the United States. A sense of duty? Yes, that was there. Anger? Definitely. As an officer and a soldier, I was tired of feeling like a pawn for both the president and an obstructionist Republican Congress. More than anything else, though, it was fear that took me across the threshold of words into action.

It was in May of 2016 that I stood at that recreation room scanner in Kuwait. I had the legal brief my lawyers had secretly prepared in-hand, my signature inked on the last page. The scan completed, I stood knowing my life would change forever when I pushed the send button. Court-martial? Not probable, but not impossible. A dishonorable discharge? Definitely possible, maybe even likely. I was scared.

But I knew that what President Obama was doing was wrong. He was setting a dangerous precedent of unfettered executive war power never intended by the Founders. Rather than using once-in-a-generation political skills to convince Congress to grant him the authority needed for national security, he took the easier road and simply filled the power vacuum himself.

I can say, though, that I never feared Obama. For all his flaws, Obama was not capricious in his use of the military. I served nearly seven years in the Army under Obama. Do I believe he allowed politics to affect some military decisions? Yes. But did I ever believe he would take an action placing servicemembers at risk without thinking through the consequences? No. Despite my checkered view of my former commander-in-chief, I can say I did not.

When I finally brought myself to press the send button that night, it was due to a different fear: fear of what could come. What if someday Americans chose someone willing to sacrifice national security for personal gain? What if we elect someone who impulsively sells out allies? What if the future commander-in-chief muses publicly about allowing torture?

No one person should have the power of war and peace, but certainly not that sort of person. The Founders understood this. For all of Congress's many flaws, it was granted war powers to prevent the emergence of an imperial presidency. That is the system I swore to defend.

Two years after it was filed, federal judges decided in Smith v. Obama that I was not entitled to ask the question that I asked. The case was thrown out on standing, never to receive a ruling on the merits. Maybe the judges really didn't feel that I had standing. Maybe they feared what a review on the merits might reveal about the judiciary's own role in shaping the imperial presidency in the post-9/11 era. I'll never know.

President Trump's actions in Iraq against Iran will not make the nation safer. All they do is underscore that the time is well past to stop risking so much on the judgment, or lack thereof, of one man.Yesterday, the House of Representatives took the first step, passing a landmark Iran war powers resolution. But Congress must not stop there. As Americans, let's make sure it doesn't. Where my efforts in the courtroom stalled, the power of the people might yet succeed.

Nathan Smith is a former Army officer with deployments to Kuwait and Afghanistan. In 2016, while serving in the command headquarters of Operation Inherent Resolve in Kuwait, Nathan became the plaintiff in the lawsuit Smith v. Obama (subsequently Smith v. Trump) alleging violations of the War Powers Resolution due to the lack of specific congressional authorization for the war against ISIS.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​​