Thrust Into Nonstop Turmoil, an Obama Adviser Counsels Pragmatism

Thrust Into Nonstop Turmoil, an Obama Adviser Counsels Pragmatism

Susan E. Rice, left, seen in the White House Rose Garden in June, has been on the job as national security adviser for six weeks. (Christopher Gregory/The New York Times)
Susan E. Rice, left, seen in the White House Rose Garden in June, has been on the job as national security adviser for six weeks. (Christopher Gregory/The New York Times)

CHILMARK, Mass. — Each morning this week, Susan E. Rice has called or come to a secluded contemporary house here, intelligence reports at hand, to brief President Obama about the chaotic world that has followed him on vacation.

On Wednesday, Ms. Rice, the national security adviser, delivered a particularly troubling report: Egypt’s military had begun a bloody operation to clear two camps of demonstrators protesting on behalf of that country’s ousted president, Mohamed Morsi. Among the options she laid out was a plan already on the table to pull the United States from joint military exercises with Egypt.

After Mr. Obama left to play golf, Ms. Rice, 48, returned to her own lodgings to consult with aides at the White House. After 5 p.m., the two spoke again, and Mr. Obama signed off on the plan.

The turmoil in Egypt, which erupted in early July just as she took up her job, has presented the toughest test yet for Ms. Rice, who in six weeks has already dealt with a terrorist scare that prompted the closing of embassies across the Middle East and with the latest chapter in deteriorating relations with Russia: the saga of Edward J. Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, which led Mr. Obama to cancel a meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

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