As Elizabeth pointed out in the comments below, the State of Virginia is pushing the idea of divesting from companies that do business with the genocidal Sudanese government. The Times-Dispatch carried the following (unsigned) opinion piece on Jan 29.
The measure is limited in scope, and no one could question the worthiness of the goal. But it raises the obvious question: Why stop there? Why not apply the same principle to other atrocious regimes in Africa — and the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America?
While divestment might prod governments to do the right thing in some cases, in others it might merely exacerbate human-rights abuses. Isolation has done little to relieve the suffering of the people of North Korea, for example.
While I understand what the author of this piece is driving at, I feel compelled to point out that they’re thinking is utterly backwards (if not completely isolationist).
First, you could easily start with any of the regions mentioned, but the reason you start with Sudan is because it’s the obvious choice. The threat of violence is current, immediate, and on-going.
Second, your assertion that divestment might merely exacerbate human-rights abuses is erroneous at best. While it could cause a backlash, as the Sudan Divestment Task Force points out the Sudanese government has shown an historic responsiveness to economic pressure, while political pressure and diplomacy alone have largely failed to stop genocide in Darfur.
Finally, if you fall back to a position of “why do this and not that,” you’re essentially conceding that you shouldn’t do anything for anyone. This is the same reasoning that spawns this kind of global hot spot, and has left those of us in the US exhausted from our government’s lack of action towards a genocide they’ve already publicly acknowledged.