Rowly, the columnist who works across the hall from me, came into my office the other day and said, "What are we going to do about Afghanistan?"

I was still trying to recover from the holidays, so I told him frankly, "I'm not ready for Afghanistan. I still haven't figured out what I'm going to do in Iran."

"But Afghanistan is more serious than Iran. There are 50,000 Soviet troops there. It's the first mass movement of the Kremlin's military might since Czechoslovakia."

"I'm aware of that," I told him. "But I'm not up to dealing with Afghanistan until I find out where the hell it is."

"So you're not going to take it seriously?"

"I didn't say I wasn't going to take it seriously. I said I wasn't going to take it at all. No one told me to keep an eye on Afghanistan. I need time for these things. Give me another month and then I might tilt one way or the other."

"A month could be too late. We have to do something about it now!"

"President Carter has warned Leonid Brezhnev in the strongest terms that the United States takes the dimmest view of the Soviet troops being sent there. I should think that would take care of the matter."

"Words aren't enough. We're going to have to take some sort of action."

"i'm not ready to take any action, Rowly. There is just so much a person in my position can do."

Don't you realize that the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets is a dagger thrusting at the heart of Iran?"

"The way I feel about Iran these days, I wish someone would stab it."

"And it would change the entire balance of power in the Middle East."

"I'm not a dummy, Rowly. Everyone knows that. But I have enough on my plate right now. Carter is going to handle this one alone. I'm sure he's up to it."

"But the Russians installed their own puppet in the capital and killed their other puppet. Their intentions are to destroy the Moslems in the country and make Afghanistan a satellite of the Soviet Union. Are you going to stand by and allow this act of naked aggression?"

"Rowly, you know how I feel about naked aggression. I was one of the first people to speak out against it long before it was fashionable. I will put my record of anti-naked aggression against anyone in this country. At the same time, I have to deal with one crisis at a time. I can't spread myself too thin."

"I'm sorry you feel this way about it," he said. "I was hoping you would at least have a solution to this one -- no wonder Carter says there is a malaise in the country."

"Rowly, when it comes to Afghanistan I don't believe I'm the only one who is turning out. I've spoken to dozens of people and not one of them knows what we should do about Afghanistan. Even my own brother-in-law, who has a solution to everything, had a blank look on his face when I mentioned the coup in Kabul."

"That's it then," he said, "you're just going to sit in your office reading the comics while Afghanistan goes down the drain?"

"If you think it will do any good," I told him, "I'll ring a church bell on my way home."