Nice, France attack hits home for Seminars at Steamboat speaker

Teresa Ristow
Brookings Institution fellows William McCants, left, and Philippe Le Corre were the speakers for Monday's Seminars at Steamboat. They discussed radical Islam and terrorism.
Teresa Ristow

— Last Thursday’s attack on a promenade full of people in Nice, France, was like a “horror movie” for French natives such as Philippe Le Corre.

Le Corre, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a widely published author in Europe and Asia, said the tragedy sent shockwaves through the country and beyond.

“France is one of the birthplaces of democracy and is a symbol of free speech, and that is probably a reason America and France have been targeted by terrorism,” Le Corre said.

ISIS claimed responsibility for last week’s attack, in which Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove a truck into a crowd of people, killing 84 and injuring hundreds more, but as of Monday, there was no definitive evidence of the man’s connection to the Iraq- and Syria-based jihadist group.

Le Corre joined Brookings Institution fellow and former U.S. State Department advisor William McCants Monday at the Strings Pavilion for a Seminars at Steamboat discussion on radical Islam and terrorism, a topic made even more timely after the attack in Nice.

McCants explained that some terrorists latch on to the identity of being part of ISIS as either a way to justify their actions and cleanse themselves of sins or as a convenient way to get more media attention for their actions.

McCants described the history of the Islamic State, painting the group as an organization fighting for its life and destined to be taken down.

“It is an organization that is fighting for survival,” McCants said. “It is fighting to maintain control of its territory.”

Le Corre and McCants fielded questions from Seminars at Steamboat Chair Bob Stein and audience members seeking the perspectives of American and European experts on radical Islam and public policy.

Both speakers emphasized that the majority of Muslims do not support the ideas or actions of the Islamic State, including the majority of France’s Muslims, who make up about 10 percent of the country’s population, according to Le Corre.

“You have millions of Muslims who live in France and who go about their business and go about their religion and are part of the community,” Le Corre said.

On combating future attacks from the Islamic State, Le Corre said governments need to work together to better share information, cooperate and strengthen counter-terrorism means.

“The only way to really keep an eye on this is sharing information, intelligence sharing,” he said. “It is not acceptable that countries do not share information.”

McCants advised Americans to remain calm, as it would be the best way to defeat a group such as ISIS.

“Stay calm, that’s the rational answer,” McCants said. “A group like ISIS is doing its best to survive — is lashing out this way, because it’s trying to survive. And in many ways, that’s a measure of our success, as difficult as it is to see.”

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

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