The United States strategic objective of political reconciliation and probably a decent interval is a non-maximal objective. It is the primary public rationale for the surge/escalation. And it has failed, even if recent evidence (late August to Monday afternoon) suggest US fatalities are decreasing against trend.
Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings raises a few good questions on the failure of any interested party in Iraq from giving up their maximal goal as a condition of meeting American political and strategic goals:
If this is true, I have a couple of questions.
First, does the collapse of our major strategic goal in Iraq mean that our soldiers can come home?
Second, if not, what exactly are they supposed to be accomplishing in Iraq? If the linchpin of our strategy in Iraq has given way, has it been replaced by anything? If so, what? And how does the presence of our troops contribute to achieving this goal?
Third, if no clear answer to my second set of questions is forthcoming, shouldn't we conclude that our soldiers and marines are over in Iraq risking their lives for nothing, on behalf of an administration that can't even be bothered to provide them with a coherent strategy?
What is the strategic objective in Iraq that is worth 800 to 1000 more dead American soldiers per year, several hundred thousand dead Iraqis per year, $200,000,000,000 in direct expenditures per year, significant and continued deterioration of American alliances and soft power, and increased validation of the toxic meta-narrative that Al-Queada has been trying to sell. What is the strategic objective/benefit worth these costs?