GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- Former President Gerald R. Ford said here yesterday that the odds favored a peaceful resolution of the Persian Gulf crisis if Americans and their allies had the patience to keep their forces mobilized in the area while diplomacy works its way.
Here for a celebration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's 100th birthday anniversary today, Mr. Ford appeared to differ from former President Jimmy Carter, who said in Wilmington, Del., Thursday that he thought there was a "greater than 50-50 chance" that the United States would be going to war against Iraq.
Mr. Ford said at a news conference that he thought President Bush was pursuing just the sort of steady course that Eisenhower, president from 1953 to 1961, would have undertaken.
He said chances were better than "50-50" that there would be a diplomatic solution, provided that there was patience enough to keep 200,000 U.S. troops in and around Saudi Arabia and that allies in Europe and among Arab states continued their support.
Mr. Ford said he would "hesitate" to predict where the situation would lead if patience failed but supposed that a military solution would be the outcome.
The former president, one of the original 18 members of Congress who urged then-General Eisenhower to run for president in 1952, announced the founding by Gettysburg College of a new "Eisenhower Leadership Prize" of $25,000 to be awarded annually "to a leader who is becoming increasingly influential in national or international affairs."
In four days of symposiums dealing with the Eisenhower presidency, historians and other scholars continued the process of elevating Eisenhower to the front ranks of American presidents.
Stephen E. Ambrose, whose two-volume biography of the general and president has become a standard work, characterized Eisenhower as "the best president of the second half of the 20th century."
For a period after he left office and retired to his farm in Gettysburg -- now a designated national historic site -- Eisenhower was characterized by many as a hands-off president.
Those who so downgraded him, Mr. Ambrose said, "were hotshot academics, not the general public."
Mr. Ford, joined by his golfing partner, Bob Hope, said at a dinner last night that Eisenhower started moves toward open borders, people-to-people contacts, relaxed East-West tensions, arms control and consultation instead of confrontation with the Soviet Union, which "all seem to be coming to pass before our eyes."