WITH U.S. TROOPS, SAUDI ARABIA -- A growing number of American troops here are expressing reservations over U.S. involvement in what they see as an internal Arab conflict.

"This is not worth one American losing his life," said Army Lt. Alexander Dumas, dispatched to Saudi Arabia from Fort Riley, Kan. "If they {Iraqis} were threatening us, I'd be ready to lay down my life in a minute -- but this is different."

During President Bush's Thanksgiving Day visit to Saudi Arabia, a truckload of soldiers drove past television cameras and reporters shouting, "We're not supposed to be here! This isn't our war! Why are we over here?"

Some military commanders attribute these doubts to youthful impatience after a tedious four-month wait in the Saudi Arabian desert, to the strains of spartan lifestyles halfway around the globe from their homes, and to mounting frustrations over Saudi restrictions on their free time.

These officers have discouraged their troops from voicing their concerns publicly. For example, a senior officer warned Lt. Dumas that he could "get in trouble" for telling his opinions to a reporter.

But the debate continues nightly among troops in Army tanks on the front lines, sailors plying the Red Sea and military truck drivers in rear support bases.

Some troops say it is the waiting and the political indecision that have most frustrated them.

"I'm sick of being scared to death, of waiting to see if I'm going to make it home or not," said Petty Officer Eric Miller, an electronic warfare specialist on the guided missile destroyer USS Sampson in the Red Sea. "I want to get it over with and find out if I'm going to survive or not."

Despite their increasing frustrations, the American troops who are beginning openly to question U.S. involvement in the Middle East crisis say their personal opinions will not affect their performance if military commanders order them into war against Iraq.

"I sit here thinking about my three kids back home and ask myself, 'Is this worth dying for?' " said a senior Marine noncommissioned officer. "And my answer is 'No.' But I'm a Marine, and this is what I'm paid to do."

While some troops who were interviewed "believe what we are doing is right" -- in the words of Air Force Staff Sgt. Jose Velez of Puerto Rico -- others said they are becoming impatient with the current standoff and a mission they feel has not been clearly articulated by political leaders. They said they follow U.S. public opinion polls, fearful of the prospect of facing war without the support of the American people.

Shortly after troops began arriving in Saudi Arabia, the military's psychological operations teams, whose mission is usually directing propaganda against enemy forces, printed small cards entitled "Why We Are Here," which were distributed to every U.S. military man and woman serving in the region.

On the front side, under a small American flag, are quotes from President Bush explaining the U.S. role in Saudi Arabia, including the warning, "If history teaches us anything, it is that we must resist aggression, or it will destroy our freedoms." On the back is a list of tips on behavior, including a warning to "respect the cultural differences of your Saudi hosts" and "do not show any interest in Arab women."

Last Sunday, U.S. military authorities ordered troops throughout the Persian Gulf region on heightened alert after missile activity in Iraq was detected. Reports that the activity was an internal weapons test and not an actual threat were met with more groans of disappointment than sighs of relief among Sgt. Jeffrey Hopkins and other crew members of a weapons maintenance team from Langley Air Force Base, near Hampton, Va.

"We thought we were at war," said Hopkins, whose team maintains missiles and other weaponry for the F-15 fighter planes flying combat air patrol over the Arabian peninsula. "I could see this situation being over and see myself right there in front of the Christmas tree back home in Virginia."

Commanders, concerned that some of their troops were growing complacent, said the alert was a useful reminder to their forces that they remain in the midst of a volatile situation. "We came here to do battle, not play around," said Air Force Capt. Renea Toliver, whose Langley-based ammunition team was one of the first units dispatched to Saudi Arabia. "But since August, the mental aspects have relaxed."

Some U.S. military commanders say they are becoming concerned that the impatience of their troops over the military mission, combined with simmering resentment over strict limitations on their activities in this Islamic kingdom, could eventually result in serious problems.

Because of these concerns, military authorities have attempted to limit contact between troops and local Saudis, although some troops can be seen in the shops and on the streets of Saudi towns and cities. U.S. authorities are quick to note that no major incidents have been reported thus far involving conflicts between U.S. troops and Saudis.

But some of the almost 200,000 military men and women now in Saudi Arabia are growing more intolerant of the many limitations imposed by the strict religious customs of Islam.

Bowing to "host nation sensitivities," the military does not allow troops to consume liquor, has banned religious Christmas displays in areas where Saudis might see them, has allowed U.S. military mail to be subjected to Saudi censorship regulations and has not allowed entertainment shows that have been traditional morale boosters for American troops in past wars.

"The military has rolled over too much on too many things," said a senior military official. "It should not ask -- it should tell the Saudis we are going to have some strictly controlled recreation areas where we are going to serve beer, have shows and let these kids unwind."