June 28, 2014, will mark the 100th anniversary of what is arguably the most eventful terrorist attack in history. That was the day that Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb, shot and killed the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.
In one of those mega-oversimplifications that journalists love and historians abhor, the murder of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his pregnant wife, Sophie, led directly and unavoidably to World War I. Between 1914 and 1918, 37 million soldiers and civilians were injured or killed. If there should ever be a terrorists’ Hall of Fame, Gavrilo Princip will surely deserve consideration as its most effective practitioner.
Terrorism, after all, is designed to produce overreaction. It is the means by which the weak induce the powerful to inflict damage upon themselves—and al Qaeda and groups like it are surely counting on that as the centerpiece of their strategy.
It appears to be working. Right now, 19 American embassies and a number of consulates and smaller diplomatic outposts are closed for the week due to the perceived threat of attacks against U.S. targets. Meantime, the U.S. has launched drone strikes on al Qaeda fighters in Yemen.