United Nations sanctions against Libya, limited as they are, mark the Security Council's latest imposition of mandatory sanctions against a rogue regime. It also took action against Iraq for invading Kuwait in August 1990, and Iraq's defiance led to the gulf war and the crackdown on Iraqi weapons-making that has come after.
In shutting down Libya's civil aviation link with the world, the Security Council has sought a punishment to fit the crime of airliner sabotage. The world community demands that Libya produce for trial the six suspects in the destruction of an American plane over Scotland in 1988 and a French airliner over Niger the next year with a combined death toll of 441. Since the suspects are Libyan intelligence officers, the dictator Muammar el Kadafi must want to loyally protect his agents and prevent their testifying. This is not, from his perspective, an easy order with which to comply.
It is, finally, the calling of accounts on state-sponsored terrorism. A cynic might argue that the world is getting tough only with regimes that are easy to put in the dock -- and the cynic would be right. But the United Nations is setting precedents of enormous scope. Its range of punishments are open-ended. Right now, in addition to the cut off of air links, the Security Council has embargoed arms sales and called for the reduction of Libyan missions abroad. If more pressure is needed, especially with Libya effectively making foreign workers hostages by refusing them exit visas, the world organization should consider oil and shipping embargoes, and the seizure of assets.