From The New York Times
prepares to visit Israel next week, he is turning, as he often does,
to Benjamin J. Rhodes, a 35-year-old deputy national security adviser with a
soft voice, strong opinions and a reputation around the White House as the man
who channels Mr. Obama on foreign policy.
Mr. Rhodes is drafting the address to the Israeli
people the president plans to give in Jerusalem, but his influence extends
beyond what either his title or speechwriting duties suggest. Drawing on
personal ties and a philosophical kinship with Mr. Obama that go back to the
2008 campaign, Mr. Rhodes helped prod his boss to take a more activist policy
toward Egypt and Libya when those countries erupted in 2011.
Now that influence is being put to the test again on
the issue of Syria
where the president has so far resisted more than modest American involvement.
After two years of civil war that has left 70,000 people dead. Mr. Rhodes, his
friends and colleagues said, is deeply frustrated by a policy that is not
working, and has become a strong advocate for more aggressive efforts to support
the Syrian opposition.
Administration officials note that Mr. Rhodes is not
alone in his frustration over Syria, pointing out that Mr. Obama, too, is
searching for an American response that ends the humanitarian tragedy, while not
enmeshing the United States in a sectarian conflict that many in the White House
say bears unsettling similarities to Iraq. Three former officials of the
administration — Hillary Rodham Clinton, Robert Gates and David Petraeus —
favored arming the opposition, a position Mr. Rhodes did not initially support.