Waiting for the Barbarians

The poet Cavafy writes of a city waiting, in fear, for an invasion of Barbarians … which, in the end, doesn’t happen. There are no barbarians at the gate.
The citizens are at a loss:
‘And now, what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
They were, those people, a kind of solution.’
Perhaps, for us, al-Qaeda are our barbarians. They are our solution. They operate in lands we hardly knew, till we were told that they were refuges for the barbarians. So now, we need them. How else can we justify the trillions we spend on losing wars in those distant countries? How else to justify the millions we torture and kill in those distant countries? How else to explain the need to read all our mail; to overhear our conversations.
But we have an explanation. We are waiting for the barbarians; arming ourselves against the unseen hordes who may be at the gate.