"Suppose someone gave a war and nobody came," George Canterbury asked me in a bar the other day.

"That's a hypothetical question," I told him. "I never answer hypothetical questions when I'm getting drunk."

"Nevertheless, the situation is reaching a point when fighting for God and country has less meaning than a Giants-Raiders football game. In the past our boys marched off with a band playing 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' and the crowds shouting, 'Give 'em hell.' It's so different now."

"Maybe it's because no one can make the big money on a war the way they used to," I suggested.

He said, "Everyone would like to give Saddam Hussein a bloody nose, but we are all afraid that we could get one too. Going to war is a questionable business, and all the great minds in the country are split on what to do about it. Are you for war?"

"Nosiree. I want to kick Saddam's butt out of Kuwait, but I'm not certain that he's worth losing one Milli Vanilli record over."

"If you had to answer a Newsweek poll tomorrow, where would you stand on hostilities?"

"Somewhere between undecided and don't know. Why are all the pollsters trying to find out who wants to go to war and who doesn't?"

"It helps the leaders in Washington make a decision."

Canterbury said, "The problem with the Iraqi situation is that in order to avoid a war, we have to convince Hussein we mean to fight one."

"Teddy Roosevelt always said to carry a big stick if you're going to use sanctions against another country."

Canterbury yelled, "Praise the Lord and pass the U.N. resolutions -- and we'll all be free."

"Even the former Joint Chiefs of Staff are against war. That only leaves George Bush and Dan Quayle for it."

Canterbury told me, "They'll gain more support when the public gets tired of seeing Saddam Hussein on the Ted Koppel show. I'll ask you a question that I'll bet you a drink you can't answer. Why is this hostility different from all other hostilities?"

"Why?"

"There are no women for the American GIs to date. For the first time in history it's possible to have a war without the soldiers making babies."

"How can you have a babyless war?" I asked. "It goes against all the rules of fraternization."

"It's hard to believe but the women in this conflict are locked up, and the GIs have nothing to do but make mud pies in the sand."

"Without women there is no peace dividend," I protested.

Canterbury said, "When we chose to fight in Saudi Arabia we did it to protect the oil, not war brides. For this reason our boys are going to come home with a clear conscience."

"Maybe," I said, "but it's going to make a lousy movie."