"`War, Nobby. Huh! What is it good for?' he said.What do you think of the sudden turn toward fatalism in the last line? In any case, that's not what I meant by packing a punch. The philosophical oomph lies in Nobby's undermining of his sergeant's strict pacifist position.
"`Dunno, Sarge. Freeing slaves, maybe?'
"`Absol— well, okay.'
"`Defending yourself against a totalitarian aggressor?'
"`All right, I'll grant you that, but—'
"`Saving civilization from a horde of—'
"`It doesn't do any good in the long run is what I'm saying, Nobby, if you'd listen for five seconds together,' said Fred Colon sharply.
"`Yeah, but in the long run, what does, Sarge?'"
Look what else the passage does. It makes a pop-culture reference, and it undercuts the solemnity of the reference with comic pacing. Adding to the humor is that the two participants in the little dialogue are comic foils, the last humans, dwarfs, trolls or vampires one would expect to have such a debate. So I'd say Terry Pratchett made a few words do lots of work here.
Something worked because, possibly amazed by their elders' invocation of Edwin Starr, the boys shut up and gave over their noisy quarreling in favor of a quiet sulk.
© Peter Rozovsky 2009