Tag Archives: oil

Bin Laden is dead, but why rejoice?

The US military has killed the leader of al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. Despite the fact that I am not a hand-wringing liberal staging the occasional ‘bed-in for peace’, I am quite shocked and disgusted by the popular reaction in the US – or at least the popular reaction being shown by the media.

Yes, he was a callous, heartless leader who created a network of terror and sheltered behind Islam as a supposed means of justification for his acts. He was responsible for the death of thousands, so he is hardly a person to be missed, but to throw parties on the street because of his death seems like irrational exuberance.

There is of course the sense of revenge. The American public feeling relief that they finally “got” the perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks on the USA a decade ago.

But the numerous deaths, both military and civilians, on both sides of this war don’t deserve this reaction – running into the street and cracking open a Budweiser “because we won the war…”

Ask any of those people, what have you won today? Tough to answer isn’t it?

Unfortunately for those drinking in the street, al-Qaeda is not a traditional enemy in the form of a nation state, organised with a single leader and obeying the strategy and ruling of a government. This is not World War II all over again.

This is a war of ideology. And the death of Bin Laden does not mean that the “war” is over at all, in fact it may even serve to generate more intense hatred of the American values that led us to this place.

It’s too simple to argue that this is about the Muslim v Christian world, or the consumerist society of the west v a more traditional emerging society, or an oil-dependent America v oil-producing states. All these are factors, but at the end of the day when the actions of a nation state (or small group of allies) produce a situation where a group of nations are at war with an ideology, it is a dire place to be – almost an Orwellian cliché.

President Bush created the rhetoric of the “war on terror” and yet how can it ever be won? Should Islam be banned and dismantled because the terrorists all appear to be Muslim? Should nations harbouring terrorists be considered to be at war with the allies? Should every critic of American society be ‘taken out’ because they don’t have the same values in their society as in the US – and their small group of supporting nations?

All these descriptions of Muslim terrorists could equally apply to white supremacists – who happen to be already in the US, and are US citizens, and can arm themselves quite legally utilising the second amendment to the constitution. The war on terror and the demonisation of Islam are quite convenient ways to make this ideological battle simple enough for the evening news bulletin.

I don’t feel sympathy for Bin Laden. He was a killer. But I wish the leaders of the democratic states that profess their desire to fight a “war on terror” could find a better way to do it than through bombing places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Bin Laden turned up in the capital of Pakistan – allegedly a friend in the war on terror – so where does this leave the bombing campaigns of the past decade?

How about spending a few billion on encouraging enforced student exchange programmes? Every US graduate should spend a year at a university far from home, preferably somewhere they can learn about how a different society works just from being engaged with the people. And this would work best if it was reciprocated, so the US welcomed, and funded, foreign students at their own universities.

It may take a decade or more to see some more enlightened attitudes, but then we have just had a decade of bombing the Middle East and what has been the result? Only greater instability and a wider fear of terrorism.

The liberals echo John Lennon by chanting ‘Give peace a chance’ and are mocked by the hawks who feel that the western ideals of democracy and personal freedom need to be spread – almost as a crusade. But regardless of whether hawks or doves are right, the present approach has only created a situation far worse than it was ten or twenty years ago.

We are now two decades on from the Cold war, but attitudes don’t seem to have thawed. Isn’t it time for some radical thinking on foreign policy – particularly from the USA? Or will we just keep on engaging in decades more of ‘regime-change’?
Central Mosque, Abuja

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I’m glad I don’t work at Murphy Oil

Take a look at this debate from Linked In. The first person is talking about their investment in Wales, which I have asked them to elaborate on and compare to other parts of the UK.

Clearly this has upset Philip Hughes of Murphy Oil, who is of course based in Wales, and seems to think it’s xenophobic to contrast why a company invests in Wales as opposed to Northern Ireland.

But not only does Mr Hughes choose to try shutting down the debate by implying I am racist, he then starts suggesting that he is a “real” business person and I couldn’t possibly have a view.

That’s because I’ve written a book. That makes me an ‘academic’ and therefore not able to comment on what the real business people do in their offices.

If this is how debate takes place in Murphy Oil, I’m glad I don’t work there!

Tom Lawrence • Paul – You are demonstrating perfectly my problem that the big outsourcing names have done a lot of damage. Was your experience an off shoring model? 

I would say its almost (if not 100%) impossible to deliver the large ROI that exist in most companies through effective procurement via an off shoring model. Impossible for the simple reason that its all about business engagement, trust building, etc. 

Procurement doesn’t actually buy anything – its an influencer. An internal consultant. So to make people change their behaviours (which is where the real value is – multiples of what is achievable through negotiating with a supplier to get a better price) you have to be on the ground, in front of the stakeholder working with them day to day. Off shoring simply won’t work. Its too impersonal. Too process led. You need good commercial communicators intercating face-to-face with the stakeholders. 

The transactional work we do (e.g. help desk, supplier onboarding, market research, etc.) we run out of a shared services centre in South Wales – same time zone, same culture, same mother tongue (and they have mainland European languages in abundance there too). It means even this team can be ‘imtimate’ with our client stakeholders. We tried to run it out of Hydrabad, but because they were unable to form relationships with our client stakeholders, it failed. So we moved it to Wales.

philip hughes • Well done Tom – good decision …. although I wont get hung up on the expression “mother tongue”… diolch yn fawr!!!

Mark Kobayashi-Hillary • Why Wales over other parts of the UK though?

Tom Lawrence • Why Wales? Lots of skills there, fed by Cardiff Uni – including languages. Lots of call centres, so plenty of relevant work experience. 2.5 hrs on train to London. And the govt grants are very attaractive. 

Altogether it was more attractive, and better value, than the alternatives, e.g. Poland.

Mark Kobayashi-Hillary • I mean compared to Newcastle, or Belfast, not Poland though…

philip hughes • Your persistence on this matter is annoying Mark – Tom made a choice based on best value delivery with quality driven well trained very capable available workforce. Competition is always fierce for regional development – this time south wales next time newcastle or belfast or wherever you happen to live – move on and talk about outsourcing as a business benefit or not and stay away from the xenophobia OK!!

Mark Kobayashi-Hillary • Philip, I’ve got no idea at all what you are talking about. I’d asked in the debate about the merits of investing in various regions of the UK, including Wales, but Tom actually compared the investment to Poland as the alternative – I merely asked again about the relative merits of various regions within the UK. 

That’s xenophobic and annoying? I’m certainly glad I don’t work with you. I think my record of writing books about investment in Brazil, Russia, India, China, Poland, as well as working with several UK trade bodies to promote FDI, including the Welsh Assembly, speaks for itself on the accusation of xenophobia.

philip hughes • Being an academic is fine and if Mark has written books also fine. I just wonder if anyone has read them? An examination of Regional development funding, with the last vestiges of objective 1 may assist in understanding Tom’s excellent decision to come to Wales. 

Anyway back to debate at the sharp end of business – is outsourcing pure cost reduction – no in my opinion as I dont understand “pure” cost reduction. A matter of definition. 
I think outsourcing is a great tool for providing improved VALUE to businesses, which has a cost component, but there is also the intellectual improvement to business processes released by utilising the vendors skill and experience gained elsewhere, which is almost impossible to cost in the traditional sense.

Mark Kobayashi-Hillary • Philip, I’m at the “sharp end” of business working with some of the world’s leading firms on a daily basis, though clearly you consider it rather academic to also write about that experience.
Black Mountains, Wales: nice view