D uring his 35-year career in counterterrorism, Dr. Boaz Ganor has noticed something “funny” about captured terrorists.

“Analyze pictures taken a few minutes after an attack, when they’re cuffed and put into a police car, and you will see smiles on their faces,” Ganor said. “It’s not photoshopped, and it’s no coincidence.”

Contrast that scene with one Ganor witnessed during a robbery attempt at an Italian bakery on a recent visit to New York.

“Police captured the thug and handcuffed him,’ Ganor recalled. “I was looking for the smile. It wasn’t there. He was angry.”

That’s the difference between a hardened terrorist and a common criminal.

Sayfullo Saipov, the 29-year-old terrorist who rammed eight people to death in lower Manhattan last week, was also smug. The Daily News reported a hospital staffer saying: “He’s talking. He’s laughing. He’s very happy with what he did. He feels accomplished.”

No surprises here for Dr. Ganor, who is executive director of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) in Herzliya. What still shocks him, however, is how too many people involved in the war on terror miscalculate the terrorist mentality.

“Most will tell you that terrorists are not rational actors. I beg to differ,” Ganor says. “Most of the terrorists, heads of terror organizations, and even suicide bombers that I researched are rational actors. It’s their rationales that are different.”

For terrorists such as Saipov, who pledged allegiance to ISIS and not to United States of America, the rationale is simple: reestablish an Islamic caliphate.

The nations fighting ISIS on the ground in Syria and Iraq, including the US, can claim some impressive accomplishments. They have driven ISIS off 90% of the territory it once claimed for its caliphate and recently ousted its fighters from their stronghold in Raqqa, Syria.

Yet it is both premature and dangerous to declare victory, says Mordechai Kedar, a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and a 25-year veteran of IDF military intelligence, who recently authored a research piece titled “ISIS: Some Things Can’t Get Killed Off.”

Members of ISIS are dispersing throughout the world, establishing local branches, and planning more lone wolf attacks like the one Saipov planned for more than a year. When I asked Kedar how counterterror authorities should respond to this new and growing threat, he said the West must reshape the rules of engagement.

“Human rights should be adapted to the changing situation, and new laws and regulations must be drafted to face and fight this internal jihad,” Kedar said. “Political correctness should be set aside, and reality should become the guide for definitions, plans, and their implementation.”

But it’s going to be a long haul. Kedar says ISIS may lose all its territory and even disappear as an organization. “But,” he added, “the world will continue to suffer from the evil ideology it has instilled in the hearts and minds of too many Muslims.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 684)