Asilah, Morocco

It’s almost comical how often certain cities or countries are conquered.  Such victims tend to be at the intersections of two continents (E.g., in Turkey or the Middle East) or on a key trade route (which is usually the same thing.)  Look at the sad tale of Asilah:

Unknown: Fell to the Romans

Unknown: Passed to the Idrisids

11th century: Attacked by Normans

972 AD until 1471: Dominated by Marinids

1471: Conquered by Portuguese

After 1578: Taken by Spaniards

1589: Ceded to Moulay Ahmad al-Mansur

1692: Conquered by Moroccans

1829: Bombed by Austria because it was a base for pirates

1911: Occupied by Spaniards.

1956: Returned to Morocco

There are several lessons here.

One, geography is historical destiny.  The Caspian Report has excellent videos explaining how geography explains much of Russia’s current behavior (

Two, I started thinking about how seldom borders of major countries have been violated in the past 70 years.  I count at least 10 wars between England and France from Medieval times until the 20th century (  In the same period there were at least 3 wars between England and Spain.  However, In recent times, excluding the World Wars, things really seemed to have calmed down.  There seems to be a consensus about most borders, and most conflicts today seem to be wars inside of borders (civil wars) rather than across borders.  Is this really a trend, or am I just kidding myself?  If this is a historical trend, why?  Have nuclear weapons cut down on cross-border wars, or is there more to the story?

I also wonder about the borders created in the Middle East after World War I.  They seem rather arbitrary.  Would the world have been better off if the map of the Middle East corresponded exactly with various ethnic groups (e.g., the Kurds in northern Iraq having their own country)?  I think the key question is this: Do ethnic groups ever truly assimilate or will there be no rest until they have their own nations?  It would be an interesting project to create a world map where the borders correspond with major ethnic groups.


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