What a difference a day made
On Monday, the prime minister said "we do not in any way rule out the use of military assets. We must not tolerate this regime using military force against its own people".
His spokesman turned down repeated opportunities to narrow down what this meant. Asked whether Britain would be willing to arm rebel groups, David Cameron said: "it is certainly something we should be considering."
This produced - as it was bound to - a slew of front page stories and my provocatively-titled blog post (Cameron's first war?) about possible military action in Libya.
On Tuesday, Downing Street stressed that, far from military action, all that was being talked about was contingency planning for a military no-fly zone IF there was a humanitarian disaster in Libya and IF our allies agrees.
So, what changed?
Cameron's aides say very little. They blame a mixture of journalistic hype and their own failure to brief more carefully for stories which, they say, failed to reflect the prime minister's own words of caution about the potential difficulties of a no-fly zone.
However, there is no doubt the prime minister was sabre rattling. There is also no doubt that that caused real concern in parts of the cabinet, anger in parts of the military, diplomatic fears that Colonel Gaddafi could use talk of military action to rally his country against the countries that bombed Tripoli in 1986 and warnings from the US defence secretary about the dangers of using the military in "another country in the Middle East".
On Monday David Cameron risked sounding Blair-like. I say "risked" as before coming to office he had warned against the "liberal interventionism - the idea that we should just get out there into the world and 'sort it all out'". In a speech in Berlin in 2007 he said that this was "the right impulse; was morally correct, but failed to strike the right balance between realism and idealism".
Now his aides are presenting him as much more like John Major - who pushed for no-fly zones to protect the Iraqi Kurds in 1991 but resisted the pressure from those who said the world could not stand by as Milosevic killed thousands in Bosnia and bloody massacres scarred Rwanda.