Some old Middle East sweats argue that today's bosses are pusillanimous. Where, they ask, is the buccaneering spirit of the 1970s that took, say, Laing into Iran? Sure, the firms got burned in the end, but in the meantime those deals provided a decade's relief from three-day-week Britain. One view of current events is that, even if the terrorists do their worst, an all-conquering America will impose a road map to peace on the whole region. And the happy outcome will include a building bonanza funded by the Arab money that left the States after 9/11.
So, do you chase gold in the Gulf – or stay at home and take your chances with the PFI? It's a dilemma that calls for cool heads; every state south of Sicily is not a death-trap for foreigners. You can only confront specific threats, and none, so far, has been made in Doha or Dubai. Caution and precaution must come first, though. Those staff who step on the plane will need training in streetwise behaviour, enhanced pay and security, and an open ticket home. Yes, costs will rise – not least those for insurance – at a time when margins are a fraction of what they were 30 years ago. And yes, it will sound a little wet to old hands. But isn't such an approach really just part of the safety-first culture that ought to be second nature to the modern industry?