The State Department's resident Ivy League Bubba, the galloping haberdasher James A. "Is This the Ugliest Tie You've Ever Seen, or What?" Baker III, has finally told us what our 400,000 troops in the Persian Gulf are all about.


I'm quoting Mr. Secretary here: "And to bring it down to the average American citizen, let me say that means jobs. If you want to sum it up in one word, it's jobs."

We're fighting Iraq for JOBS!

Iraq, the Kelly Girl of the Third World. Iraq, where Chemicals R Us. Iraq, think of all that sand as one big glass-blowing opportunity.

Good old labor-intensive Iraq.

Pardon me, but if I were fighting for jobs, I'D ATTACK JAPAN because that's where the good jobs are.

I like our chances against Japan because they've got a smaller army, and a better climate, and no poison gas, and we have a good record against them -- we're 1-0..

And if I didn't want to go quite that distance in the War for Jobs, I would stay home and ATTACK EASTERN AIR LINES. (Talk about good news/bad news with the Eastern frequent-flier program. I have four first-class tickets to anywhere in their system. Unfortunately, they're now flying only to Toledo.)

Jobs, huh?

I guess that means we're not there for the reasons previously stated.

We're not there for oil. Oil, feh. Who needs oil when we've got global warming? If we can just hang in there for the next 20 winters, we won't need any home heat. And we rely much too much on cars. We can commute on foot. All we have to do is wake up a little earlier, like last Tuesday.

We're not there for naked aggression. On Oct. 16 in Des Moines, the Bushman said, "The fight is about naked aggression." But apparently he misspoke. Anyway, it's too much of a sunburn risk in the Persian Gulf to have naked aggression, and it violates the religious customs.

We're not there, as Baker said on Nov. 4, for "the defense of values." If jobs are the goal, we're probably there for the defense of Tru-Value. Apparently we're not there because Saddam Hussein is Hitler anymore either. He may still be Hitler, but the spin doctors have made him into Frank Lorenzo.

We're there for jobs.

(It's already working. Willard's there doing the weather.)

Going back to the Fabulous Baker Boy's statement, I especially like this part: "To bring it down to the average American citizen... " which is shorthand for "Okay, this is for all you morons." You've got to watch out for Republicans sometimes on the patronizing issue. Don Regan did it with women and throw weights, and here's Princeton Jimmy doing it on the Gulf War. Excuse me, can everybody in the back of the evolutionary chain hear me? Hey, you guys in the trailers, you wanna put down those longnecks and listen up, I'm doing this for you. The secretary of state must think we're incapable of understanding geopolitical policy unless he uses words of one syllable. So he asks Sununu to prepare a short list of Bubba words.

Sex. Beer. Chips. Cars. Chicks. Fries.

And he picked: Jobs.

In a few weeks maybe it'll be about meat.

Meanwhile, we have 400,000 soldiers there and we can't even entertain them. Saudi Arabia frowns on public entertainment. So out of regard for sensitivities in the Saudi culture, the USO has canceled its customary shows, a severe blow to Joey Heatherton fans. American entertainers who go there will be limited to what is being called "handshake and autograph meetings," otherwise known as "grip and grins." (Attention, grunts, at 0800 there will be a handshake op. Be prompt, and wash first.)

Jay Leno and Bob Hope can go, but not tell jokes. Lee Greenwood can go, but not sing. Aging ingenue Brooke Shields can go, but not do whatever it is that she does -- which, I suspect, is what Richard Gere did before he made his comeback, and what Jill Clayburgh has been doing for some time now.

Steve Martin was in Saudi Arabia in October and could only shake hands. Not to disparage Steve Martin's grip, but why would I want to shake his hand? From Steve Martin, I want King Tut. A handshake I can get from my mailman.

I know they have different laws in Saudi Arabia; one, presumably based on a bad experience King Fahd once had in the parking lot of the Dallas Neiman Marcus during Last Call, prohibits women from driving, another apparently forbids laughter. But we've got 400,000 troops there protecting their country, their oil wells and their lack of democracy. I can understand how it would offend the Saudi customs to bring over Carol Doda and the Truckstop Vixens in the all-nude version of "Agnes of God." But if we're ready to die for their right to keep Shirley Muldowney off the streets of Riyadh, they might at least allow us to hear Jay Leno tell a few jokes.

Now, though, I think we've found the perfect act to send over there, an act that can't offend the Saudis because they don't actually do anything. Of course I mean the multi-talented Milli Vanilli, whose act at the moment consists of having great hair, which, on reflection, may not be theirs. (In the spirit of Milli Vanilli's performance honesty I have a confession to make. For the past 12 years I've done the real singing on every Tom Petty song. Before that, I was Aretha Franklin.)

The Grammy they won was in the Lip-Syncing category, beating out strong challenges by Joe Biden, Jerry Mahoney and Ronald Reagan. Revelations about Milli Vanilli's lack of, let us say, purpose on their records has led others with great hair to leap into the non-recording business. Don King will shortly release an album, "Electric Porcupine," and Lesley Stahl has a single, "Can't Dent This."

Ladies and gentlemen of Desert Shield, you thought you heard them on record, you were wrong, please welcome for your coiffuring pleasure, see them, feel them, touch them, but definitely don't hear them: Milli Vanilli!