At best Cuba is now manifesting an inability to police and protect its own interests in its own territory--a sign of sclerosis that portends badly for the vanguard party and its long term ambitions to institutionalize its governance system (that it still worries about this after almost three quarters of a century ought to give pause). At worst Cuba again is playing death wish politics--some faction within the state apparatus (or its military apparatus) in partnership with who knows what or whom--has chosen this as the most opportune moment to destroy any remaining chance of forward movement in relations. The first renders Cuba's state apparatus pathetic; the second renders that apparatus dangerous or out of control. Conspiracy theorists might be inclined to see in this an out of control vanguard party unable to contain the factional fighting even before the present leadership retires. Or worse, it might suggest that Cuba has become a somewhat brazenly open territory for experimentation by those states that would otherwise not dare to act in the open with development of (likely purloined and then cleverly developed) technological innovation in next generation personal weaponry.
The U.S. fares little better. At best the U.S. is wisely protecting its diplomats and citizens. In an era in which all U.S. nationals tend to be targets of convenience for any individual or group that views U.S. policies, positions, culture, etc. as an affront or threat that justifies the most atrocious conduct, risk averse decisions are not unreasonable. Yet there are weaknesses to the present choices. The U.S. is manifesting a sad and technologically backwards inability to protect its own people (and interest) within a context in which the United States had (or ragged about having in any case) the most advanced technologies and know how in the world. That the United States is reacting to the sonic attacks the way my nearly century old father in law reacts to glitches on his laptop computer renders the United States and its vaunted security apparatus as pathetic as its Cuban partner. On the other hand, the response evidences the sort of meanness that ought to have no place in the relations of a powerful state, if only because it invariably compromises U.S., interests. The Americans gains nothing by punishing the very people it purports to vest its great hope for "regime change" in Cuba. Fleeing diplomats suggests the sort of weakness a great power ought never to display. And the pettiness--fit for a middle tier state, or a teenager dealing with high school drama--suggests weakness or disarray within the U.S. policy apparatus. The really sad thing is that it is as likely that locals will decide that the reason for the reduction of personnel is the reality of the flooding at the U.S. Embassy that renders the building less usable.
In any case, the next steps are clear though not certain. At this crossroads, either both states will cooperate and overcome the present difficulties or give in to their usual patterns of thoughtless provocation. In the best case, that means Cuba does something quite difficult, it chooses to approach U.S. overreaction in a less paranoid style and expresses a willingness to be more pragmatically rational about exposing the glitches that produced the incident. For the U.S. this means tempering the usual reflex toward the pettiness of the clueless but privileged and indulgence in the usual reflex toward petty vindictiveness (for example the call to expel Cuban diplomats) and the characteristically American "gotcha" approach to political interaction. and reinforces its quite useful policy of focused targeting of punishment for harms to U.S. interests. Otherwise, the pathologies that have marked these relationships for so long will continue to drive policy on both sides in what has always been the most colorful act in the Caribbean diplomatic circus.
These themes are nicely developed in U.S. cuts staff in Cuba over mysterious injuries, warns travelers, a Reuters article (Reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington and Sarah Marsh in Havana; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Mark Hosenball in Washington, Alana Wise in New York and Marc Frank and Nelson Acosta in Havana; Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by James Dalgleish and Grant McCool), portions of which follow.