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Blog: Talking to the Enemy

Blog: Talking to the Enemy

I got an email from a Ph.D. student at Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran. He said the professor he was working with on his doctoral dissertation was a leading expert in supply chain management in Iran and they were interested in translating my book, Essentials of Supply Chain Management, 2nd Edition into Persian (Farsi).

He went on to tell me that he was contacting me as a professional courtesy, but since there are no copyright agreements between his country and mine, there wouldn't be any royalties coming to me from the translation. He then asked if I would assist them with the translation. He also said (politely, but still clearly enough) that they were going to do the translation anyway whether I assisted them or not. How would you respond to this?

I admit I was flattered that someone read my book and liked it; he said, "I have searched a lot and I think your book is one of the best ones in SCM subject." I'm a sucker for flattery. But there's no money here... And it's Iran.

The translation will be used as a textbook in business and engineering courses and by Iranian companies to improve their supply chain operations. I did a search on the professor's name and found he is a shareholder in a consulting company formed by a group of professors at Sharif University of Technology to "serve the national manufacturing as well as service industries."

As I see it, here's the crux of the whole thing: is working with this professor and his graduate student a political act or a personal statement? Am I unpatriotic if I help companies in Iran become more productive, or am I just doing a small thing to help people improve their economic well being?

Our current president has refused to talk to Iran and two of the candidates to be the next president have said they won't talk to Iran either. But the other candidate has said he will talk to Iran. Hmmm, sounds like people want to see this as a political act.

As I thought about the pros and cons, what came to mind was a science fiction movie from the 80's called Enemy Mine. It's a corny B movie, yet it made an impression. It's set in the midst of an interstellar war between humans and an alien race called the Dracs. The movie opens as a human pilot and a Drac pilot engage in a dogfight (Dennis Quaid plays the human and Louis Gossett, Jr. plays the Drac), and they damage each other's spacecrafts so both wind up crash landing on a planet filled with dangerous creatures and constantly being bombarded by meteors.

They find each other on the planet and continue fighting. Then in the middle of their fight, Dennis Quaid gets attacked by one of the planet's creatures and Louis Gossett saves him. They realize they need each other if they are going to survive; they start to learn each other's language and history and culture.

I decided to work with the Iranian Ph.D. student and his professor and assist them with their translation. In return for my assistance, I asked them to include a short introduction from me in their Farsi edition; so that way I get a chance to talk directly to the people in Iran who read my book.

A few days ago a package arrived in the mail and in it there were two copies of the new Farsi edition of my supply chain book. In one of the books was a letter to me signed by the Ph.D. student and his professor. At the top of the letter is an opening statement; it says, "In the Name of GOD" (I believe that's the same God we Americans refer to in the statement on our currency that says, "In God We Trust").

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