Monday, August 15, 2005

Darfur Divestment

In this world where there is a growing divide on almost every issue. Both the right and the left are unified on opposing the genocide in Darfur. Many political enemies share the same podium against the genocide, slavery and systematic oppression in Darfur.

There also seems to be a recognition that the United States is one of the leading voices against the genocide. The United States has done just about everything short of unilateral action to stop the genocide.

Unfortunately, all efforts have resulted in little more than slowing the pace of the genocide.

My primary opposition to the Iraq war was that, by investing all of our effort in one international cause, we lost our ability to address other concerns such as Darfur. One could put forward an argument that by invading Iraq, we turned our backs on Darfur. The more likely complaint is that we thought we could do it all. The US cannot unilaterally engage Sudan. UN efforts were blocked by China and Syria. So the only real weapon is moral outrage.

There is currently a call to divest from Sudan. I don't like this tact because divesture tends to wipe out the middle class while strengthening the bad guys. As US pension funds divest at bottom dollars in Sudan, China is buying.

Of course, from a progressive standpoint, having American pension funds sell their investments at below market value to China is a great deal. China is, after all, the most "progressive" nation on the planet.

The history of investments and embargoes have been poor. Generally they end up consolidating power in dictatorial hands. Look at the massive wads of cash that we found in the hands of Hussein. The same is true of Castro. Embargos and divesture consolidates wealth into the hands of tyrrants. It also provides an excuse for rogues like Castro and Hussein to rob their people blind.

We should be supporting socially responsible investment in Sudan. Investment in the survivors of Darfur would help reduce the number of post genocide starvations. The real goal should be to give the people of Southern Sudan the wealth of their birthright...the oil under the land.

Rather than a total divesture from Sudan. There should be a qualifier of investments. There should be a demand that multinationals invest in socially responsible ways and should not be benefitting from the genocide. A goode example of this is European Coalition on Oil in Sudan.

The cause of this genocide is economic. Competing warlords want control over the oil to fund their meglomania. People seeking divestment are correct that the solution to the problem is economic. The solution is to structure the ownership of these oil reserves so that more people, not fewer, benefit from the extraction of oil. Divesting simply consolidates controls into the hands of the people who spurred the genocide.

In summary, I am extremely happy to see left and right consolidated on the issue of stopping the genocide in Darfur, but find it heart rending that the United State's hands are tied on this unifying cause. As with so many other issues, we are left with less than adequate means to respond to the issue like divestment. Divestment is a feel good statement, but I am not sure it is the most effective means of ending the hostilities. Divestment and embargos often make matters worse.

There is not an easy answer. People need to maintain the pressure on this issue, continue the documentation.

Church World Services has an informative page on the crisis.

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