It probably won't be recognized by the media today or by historians tomorrow, but yesterday was a tipping point.
The point where the worldview of the war's apologists declined in relevance.
As the neocon frame became hysterical, and an alternative frame began to crystallize.
Yesterday, leading war booster Sen. John McCain, and his neocon sidekick Sen. Lindsey Graham, offered a weak, but coordinated, message.
On ABC's This Week, McCain said of the "surge":
I believe that this new strategy has a good chance of success. I'm not guaranteeing it, but I am guaranteeing the consequences of failure...
...I can't tell you what the other options are, because there are no good options to this. If there was a good option to what we're doing, sending more young Americans in harm's way, I'd tell you.
But they are all bad options in my view, if this one isn't supported and succeeds.
And Graham, on Fox News Sunday:
If we leave, it is a death blow. If we say we're going to leave at a date certain, it will freeze every effort to reach political reconciliation.
I can not guarantee you success, but I can promise you this: The day you set timelines and deadlines, it's lost in Iraq and it becomes a bigger war, not a smaller war.
So in short, there's only two options: my way, which I won't "guarantee" will work ('cause I'm clearly worried it won't). Or leaving, which will bring guaranteed disaster.
Problem for them is, they're acting like it's three years ago, when Democrats were not articulating clear alternatives.
Now, their claims of "my way or the highway to hell" make absolutely no sense.
Because we're already in hell, and Dems are articulating.
Specifically yesterday, by Sen. Jim Webb and presidential candidate John Edwards.
Neither offered slogans or sound bites, but took the time to explain why and how a diplomatic strategy could stabilize Iraq and the Gulf region.
Here's Webb on Fox News Sunday:
I think what has been irresponsible has been the administration coming forward with solutions, or so-called solutions, that simply go back to the well again and again to the military without addressing the elephant in the bedroom ... dealing with Iran and Syria...
...it is in their interest. First of all, with Iran, if you look at what happened after the Afghani invasion in '01, Iran directly participated in the round of talks that resulted in the Karzai government.
We had India, Pakistan, other countries in the region, and Iran was a direct player in that. And then after the axis of evil speech, Iran was the one that kind of receded.
With respect to Syria, it is not in Syria's long- term interest to be an ally of Iran. Syria and Iran have never been natural allies. They're different ethnically. They're different politically.
And if you can break Syria apart from Iran, then you're going to be able to affect other issues in the region in a dramatically different way -- Hezbollah, the Palestinian situation -- if Syria were a different player. I think you can get them to the table...
...I think the process should be is withdraw ... 40-50,000 troops now from the more secure areas of Iraq, continue to draw down American troops, combat troops over the course of the next 12-plus months, make it clear to the leadership, both the Sunni and, and Maliki and, and the Shia that they're going to have to take responsibility for this.
And finally, engage not just our friends in that region of the world ... engage directly with Iran and Syria, because both Iran and Syria have an interest in Iraq not going totally chaotic...
....Iran's interest is first of all in not having, you know, a million-plus refugees coming across their western border, which could clearly happen with an all-out civil war within Iraq.
Their second interest is they are [a] Shia-dominated country, Iraq is a Shia-dominated country in a Sunni-dominated Muslim world. They're about 10 to 15 percent of the Muslim world.
So if this thing were to actually go completely to pot and to spill over, and it became a broader Middle East conflict, they are very much in the minority. And I can assure you they understand that.
So we have leverage in dealing with Iran.
Similar leverage, leverage with [Syria]. They don't want to see the refugees coming across their border.
They're Sunni, not Shia. But they also have an interest in not seeing this thing go chaotic.
But they will never participate in stabilizing the country as long as we are the occupying force there.
Again, this not zippy enough for 30-second ads. But that's just fine for now.
It helps show who is really rooted in reality, who has a greater understanding of foreign policy and national security.
And it helps build a framework to shape debate, denying neocons the ability to continue dictating terms of debate.
We need to invest time and energy building that framework now, so we can eventually run 30-second ads that'll make sense to the public.
And thankfully, we have some leaders doing that critical intellectual spadework.