Eric Posner Argues Nothing Wrong with Obama Ignoring OLC's Advice on Libya

Libyan Legal Limbo
Eric Posner and Adrian Vermeule
June 27, 2011

President Obama's decision to ignore the Office of Legal Counsel's advice about Libya has shocked and worried critics on the left and right. Yet the decision emerged from what was essentially a bureaucratic conflict—the State Department and the White House Counsel's Office said the U.S. military intervention in Libya was permissible under the War Powers Resolution, OLC and the Department of Defense disagreed—and the uninitiated may be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss is about. Isn't choosing among the views of his advisers what the president is supposed to do?

The president's critics say that in important legal matters, it's the job of OLC (which is part of the Justice Department) to weigh the competing views and issue an opinion that presidents are presumptively bound to respect. These critics praise the "independence" of OLC and paint a dark picture of a presidency that enforces "political" decisions, overriding the legal merits. In fact, OLC has been far l