CUBA sees itself as a civilised society, despite the West's view of it as an ideological outcast, a relic from the Cold War when it was a Soviet client-state. But Havana's action in shooting down two civilian light aircraft, piloted by Cuban exiles, confirms its status as an outlaw nation. Destroying civilian aircraft over international waters is not behaviour the world expects from civilised countries. It remains unacceptable even if there is evidence the aircraft had recently trespassed into Cuba's airspace. The attack was a serious miscalculation. While Cuba is unpopular with the United States, it has not maintained a reputation for murderous arrogance with other Western governments. It is one of very few remaining Communist nations yet, outside the United States and Central America, it is nowadays often regarded more with pity than anger. Despite the ideological hard-line still adopted by Fidel Castro's Government, there have been sufficient signs of flexibility to suggest a change in its international isolation. There is probably some sub-clause of Murphy's Law ('If something can go wrong, it will') which states that just as a long-shunned government begins the slow, painful re-entry into the community of nations, some trigger-happy general or political hard-liner will kill a few civilians and set the process back. The government concerned then feels itself obliged to support and justify the action, no matter what the diplomatic consequences. So the attack cannot be good news for the people of Cuba. The United Nations' Security Council is likely to condemn Cuba's action (although it may not go so far as to impose sanctions). Washington, which already operates a trade embargo against Cuba - in defiance of the UN General Assembly - will now feel obliged to maintain it. There is no doubt the regular flights run into and around Cuban airspace by the exile group 'Brothers to the Rescue' were a provocation and were intended to be. But they hardly justified the use of such brutal force. It is time the Cuban exiles and the government they oppose learned self-restraint.