Power does truly astonishing things. The below question and response by our President (who was at the time of this question merely a Senator) demonstrates how emotion trumps principal even in extremely discliplined individuals, and how the vast majority of arguments are not truth-finding expeditions, but mechanisms designed to dominate in furtherance of short-term goals. If the President were presented with the below (his brain has likely jettisoned the memory of this in order to preserve congruence with current actions in Libya) he likely would argue the definition of "immiment threat" includes oil supply fluctuations. He would also point to the U.N. resolution and being demonstrative of some threat.
These are the contortions people make when their goal is to hold power. This is the system we have, so I do not begrudge any player in the game who plays it well. But it is instructive to observe what is said under one context, and what is done in another.
Barack Obama's Q&A
2. In what circumstances, if any, would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress? (Specifically, what about the strategic bombing of suspected nuclear sites -- a situation that does not involve stopping an IMMINENT threat?)
The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.
As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.
As for the specific question about bombing suspected nuclear sites, I recently introduced S.J. Res. 23, which states in part that “any offensive military action taken by the United States against Iran must be explicitly authorized by Congress.” The recent NIE tells us that Iran in 2003 halted its effort to design a nuclear weapon. While this does not mean that Iran is no longer a threat to the United States or its allies, it does give us time to conduct aggressive and principled personal diplomacy aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.