Who goes to war with a non-bordering country?
November 25, 2011 1:19 AM   Subscribe

Who goes to war with a non-bordering country?

It seems to me that wars between countries that do not share a border are a rather recent phenomenon. Basically, wars between sovereign nations separated by some significant distance. Thus, I'm excluding ones that were expansionist campaigns, like Napoleon's (which, as territory increased, essentially became "border wars") or campaigns by a colonizing power to suppress insurrection/independence movements.

The 20th century is full of examples of this (e.g., WWI, WWII, UK-Argentina, US-Everyone), but what are some other good examples and how far back does this type of conflict go back?
posted by holterbarbour to Law & Government (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Well to be fair the Falklands War (UK-Argentina) did involve a shared border of a sort - the Islands themselves (the invasion of which by Argentina kicked the whole thing off).

Just because the British Isles themselves didn't share a border with Argentina doesn't mean that British territory didn't.

(Unless you're suggesting that only land borders count, which would be overly limiting to my mind)
posted by garius at 1:24 AM on November 25, 2011

What about the Crusades?
posted by olinerd at 1:24 AM on November 25, 2011 [7 favorites]

Re: The Falklands. To my knowledge, the Brits retook the islands, but didn't attack Argentina proper.
posted by Mister Bijou at 1:35 AM on November 25, 2011

The Crusades were a direct response to Muslim invasions of France and attacks on the Byzantine Empire, so violating the OP's first exclusion.
posted by joannemullen at 1:37 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Crimean War? Wars have always been waged as far distant as force projection was possible/worthwile - it's just that by your qualifications you exclude all the well-known reasons that made the logistics challenge seem worth solving - expansion, colonial gains etc.
posted by themel at 1:37 AM on November 25, 2011 [5 favorites]

Yeah, what themel said.
posted by Mister Bijou at 1:41 AM on November 25, 2011

Carthage vs Rome? (Hannibal marching his army all the way through spain/southern france to get to Italy?)

France/UK/Turkey vs Russia in the Crimean war.

Mongol? invasion attempt on Japan?

Spanish conquests of the Americas?

French/Dutch/UK imperialism in Africa/Asia?

Depends what you classify, but I think the premise is false particularly when you consider nation states and their alliances.
posted by Leud at 1:41 AM on November 25, 2011

The Crusades were fought at the border if you think of "Christendom" as the country, since that's what was being defended. Likewise, when NATO attacks Iraq or Libya, it's fighting at its border. However, technically anybody who competes for ocean, airspace or a third-party resource is fighting without sharing a border, and there are hundreds of examples.
posted by michaelh at 1:44 AM on November 25, 2011

American - Spanish war would seem to be another example?
posted by Leud at 1:45 AM on November 25, 2011

If you look at the British Empire in the 1800s there was war in Afghanistan, India, China, Crimea, Sudan, Egypt. Some of that was to control an empire, some was to control trade and some was just to stop the other guy (France, Russia, etc) from getting what they wanted.
But if you want a precedent for war between non-bordering nations, what about the Trojan War?
posted by sleepy boy at 1:48 AM on November 25, 2011

Well, virtually every war the British Empire was involved in, them being an island nation and all.
posted by atrazine at 2:07 AM on November 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

The Persian Wars? (unless you don't count the Greek city-states as sovereign nations, I guess.) That's a long way back.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:14 AM on November 25, 2011

The Spice Wars: Wikipedia has a bit, plus a stub.

The Norman conquest of Sicily.

Conquest of the Canaries.
posted by nangar at 3:20 AM on November 25, 2011

The Iliad and the Ramayana both feature heroes who travel considerable distances to fight non-local, logistically challenging, non-territorial battles to retrieve stolen women and/or punish the kidnapping. Compare with the 1868 punishing of Abyssinia or Operation Entebbe.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 3:21 AM on November 25, 2011

War of 1812.
posted by Etrigan at 5:51 AM on November 25, 2011

I was going to mention the Iliad also, and maybe some of the very long distance raids and wars that native americans took part in. I don't think this is really a new phenomenon.
posted by Forktine at 6:01 AM on November 25, 2011

War of 1812.

posted by Jahaza at 6:19 AM on November 25, 2011

The Punic Wars beginning in about 250 BCE between Carthage and Rome - separated by the Mediterranean Sea - did not involve any common borders at all - and indeed involved great distances.
posted by three blind mice at 6:58 AM on November 25, 2011

Due to alliances between Territories, there have always been wars between non-bordering countries. They might not have been the original belligerents, but they were at war.

It is probably more confused by the mercenary forces that were more common in the past. Since there were not as many regular forces, the actual combatants might have been from different states again.

So, if you are excluding wars for expansion, you only really leave wars over religion, for the control of resources and trade routes which seem to me to be mostly on non-bordering territories. I'm certainly no expert, but I think that even in the dark ages religion was used as a 'noble' cover for acquiring or maintaining control of trade and commerce.
posted by dantodd at 7:11 AM on November 25, 2011

Barbary Wars: USA vs N. African states in early 19th century.
posted by pots at 8:46 AM on November 25, 2011

Your question confuses me. You state that WWI and WWII were not wars between bordering states? But that is not correct. What are you asking?
posted by dfriedman at 8:55 AM on November 25, 2011

The Franco- Mexican War (which gave us Cinco de Mayo)
The Anglo-Spanish War
Sicily has in turns been invaded by the Athenian Greeks, Saracens, and Normans.
posted by chrisulonic at 9:09 AM on November 25, 2011

1801 War of the Oranges France vs. Portugal
posted by adamvasco at 10:10 AM on November 25, 2011

Do islands count? Because at one point in its long history Japan was war with pretty much anyone they could sail a ship to.
posted by Ookseer at 11:47 AM on November 25, 2011

The Norman conquest of Sicily.

Well, to be fair, the Norman conquest of Sicily didn't involve nations; it involved a bunch of nobles who weren't likely to get much land at home going elsewhere to get land. It's hard to talk about nation-states at all in the Medieval West; feudalism was pretty transnational and central governments very weak.

The early years of Rome vs Carthage had Sicily in the middle, but, even there, trade concerns and plans for expansion brought them together.

I think your question doesn't really fit the case. No countries have ever gone to war that didn't share at least a conceptual boundary -- zones of trade or spheres of influence overlapping. The exceptions (the vikings and conquistadors, maybe?) weren't really nations warring but more-or-less legalized pirates....
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:28 PM on November 25, 2011

Yeah, I don't think the Punic Wars are a good example. Sicily was essentially, if not technically, a border in the First, and I think there were actual European borders around the coast of Spain and France in the Second. The Third was just mop up.

More importantly, though, they (the first two, at least) were essentially wars for hegemony over the central and western Mediterranean, which itself was a border between them (and not all that big of one, in places - e.g. Sicily - Tunisia, the Tyrrhenian Sea, and the Ligurian Sea).
posted by Flunkie at 3:51 PM on November 25, 2011

Response by poster: Dfriedman, I used WWI and WWII as examples because of the more obvious instances of long-distance warfare like US-Japan or Germany in the latter, or being sucked into war with a non-neighboring country due to a mutual defense pact in the case of the former. Certainly there were neighboring countries at war as well in both
posted by holterbarbour at 4:15 PM on November 25, 2011

the more obvious instances of long-distance warfare like US-Japan

But the US and Japan did share a boarder. It's very large and diffuse, and it's called the Pacific, but the Japanese were (as I recall) seriously concerned about US expansion into the Pacific in the first half of the 20th C. So you had overlapping spheres of influence and colonial ambition in that case.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:40 PM on November 25, 2011

Borders are a very simplistic way of looking at conflicts between nation-states. Many conflicts have been over resources, or trade routes (i.e. access to resources), or over religious or monarchical association, as the above discussion shows. But largely, the very concept of a legally-recognized "border" really only dates from the Treaty of Westphalia forward.

religion was used as a 'noble' cover for acquiring or maintaining control of trade and commerce

Well, before the Treaty of Westphalia, there was a great deal of overlap between religious and what we would now call "national" interest. I don't think it was a "noble cover" any more than manifest destiny was a "cover" for US expansionism: It was in fact the philosophical underpinning.

For instance, colonial "conquest" was obviously a war, but wasn't seen in the same light as wars between imperial regimes themselves (e.g. Spain and Portugal, or France and Great Britain).

To reframe your question properly would require a bit more investigation of international relations as it is understood today and as represented in the past.
posted by dhartung at 8:19 AM on November 26, 2011

Not a full-blown war, of course, but the Israeli attack on the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq involved an unusual use of force against a non-neighboring nation.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 5:05 PM on November 26, 2011

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