The Impact of the Battle for Mosul on the Presidential Elections

Holdings in Mosul as of October 19th
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Trimmed BBC image - original from IHS Conflict Monitor

     The battle for Mosul rages on in Iraq, giving hope that the days of ISIS/IS presence in Iraq are nearing an end. “Mosul has been in the hands of IS since 2014 and is the militants' last major Iraqi stronghold.”1 In essence, Mosul represents ISIS’s last major foothold in Iraq. As the fighting intensifies civilians are making efforts to flee the city – both for safety concerns as the battles rage on and out of concern as supplies become increasingly scarce. Additionally, though, there are reports of ISIS fighters making efforts to either flee the city or attempt to blend in with the existing civilian population as the ISIS presence dwindles. For now, the majority of territory remains in ISIS control, but clear signs of progress are being seen.

     The question on many minds, though, is where to place the blame for ISIS gains in Iraq in the first place. As recently as Wednesday’s final debate – Presidential candidate Donald Trump was laying the responsibility at the feet of President Obama and the Democratic nominee: Hillary Clinton. However, this accusation should be taken with a rather large grain of salt for one massive reason. Trump’s accusations of blame are largely tied to the US withdrawal from Iraq being rushed, announced publically, and handled poorly – facts which he blames on Obama & Clinton. While this is received with cheers from Trump supporters, the greatest fault in this logic is that the US-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement (which required the US withdrawal from Iraq and outlined the timeline for this withdrawal) was signed by President George W. Bush. Perhaps the clearest indicator of this would be that it was signed in 2008 – before Obama actually entered the Oval Office. It begs the question of how Obama (or, by extension, Hillary) can be blamed for a withdrawal agreement signed by Obama’s predecessor.

     Let’s examine this a bit more closely, though. ISIS is normally credited with filling the power vacuum that existed in multiple countries following the US withdrawal from Iraq. True, the original formation can be traced back further in time, but the rise to actual power and acts which garnered international attention stemmed from farther along in their timeline. The question this begs is: did the US intervention in Iraq directly lead to the creation of the modern day incarnation of ISIS. The answer appears to be yes. And while many politicians, Hillary Clinton included, were swept up in the call to action against Iraq based in part on supposed links to 9/11 – the ultimate result of their misjudgment leaves death and destruction on the doorsteps of many now in cities like Mosul.

     We live in a world of quick-fire response and immediate action, and in the cause of defense of our nation and innocent civilians around the world these are noble aspirations. However, rushing to a decision without the full facts or grasping the full scope of what one is deciding is nearly as dangerous as committing to a course of action blindly. In this sense Trump’s accusations of Hillary’s culpability touches closely on truth. We require leaders to make difficult decisions that will never grow easy, but we need these decisions to be made with the best possible information & intel and by the most upstanding & moral among us.

     And, in that regard, we go full circle back to the Presidential election rapidly approaching a close. We face a call to decide who our new leader will be, and a populace that is uncertain who to pick or where to turn. Clinton, in the last debate, spoke of the concern of the character of a President holding the nuclear launch codes. She is right to advocate for this concern, but it should spread farther. We need someone who understands politics, law, governmental limitations, and the consequences of both our actions and inaction as a nation. This is not a decision to be made of the gut, but of the mind. And while I favor Hillary’s experienced hand over Donald’s more flippant one, I must close by stressing that with the stakes this great certainty feels like an impossibility.

1 – BBC’s early coverage of the Mosul offensive: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37719634

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