Norman, Oklahoma - Even as Vice President Cheney was threatening to unleash the dogs of war against Iran in a bellicose speech in Dallas on Friday, David Boren, the president of the University of Oklahoma, was offering a more sane and sensible approach to dealing with the nutcase who heads that country while addressing an audience here that included Army Chief of Staff George Casey Jr.
Boren, a former governor and U.S. senator from Oklahoma who took the helm at OU in 1994 and has made it, as one of his predecessors reportedly said, a university that its football team can be proud of, took time out of his prodigious fundraising efforts to listen to Gen. Casey give budding journalists an unvarnished view of the threat of global terrorism.
The former commander of multinational forces in Iraq warned students and faculty and 60 future Army, Air Force and Navy/Marine officers at the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication that America faces at least a decade of armed conflict unlike any it's seen before.
Islamic terrorists, and said, "have a long view, they have a 100-year view, and they will not go away."
Declaring that the globalized economy is creating disparities between haves and have-nots that will create breeding grounds for terrorists in failed states, Casey said the Internet has enabled terrorists to gain access to weapons of mass destruction and communicate with other terrorists. "We believe the predominant type of conflict in the future is going to be non-conventional war."
Boren, whose son Dan is the only Democrat in the Congressional delegation of this red state - only Utah and Cheney's Wyoming are redder - responded afterwards before leaving to name a building after an oil tycoon alum who has given $20 million to the university.
"I sometimes think we should call this the national campaign against terrorism, instead of just the war against terrorism," said Boren, who has raised over a billion dollars for OU, much of which has gone to improving academic standards. "... We must not only bring order, which has to come through the importance of military strength, but we must win their minds, we must win their hearts."
Boren told me last week that he is considering calling a summit meeting of bipartisan leaders, including New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, former Defense Secretary Bill Cohen, former Senators Sam Nunn of Georgia, John Danforth of Missouri. Dave Durenberger of Minnesota and Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana, to try to change the poisonous partisan tone of the 2008 presidential campaign.
It's a good idea. It might even head off the dangerous saber rattling of Vice President Darth Vader, who told the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth that Iran's nuclear ambitions pose an imminent threat to the U.S. and the entire Middle East.
"Nobody wants to resolve this in any means other than peacefully, if it's at all possible," he said. "But in the final analysis, the worst outcome would be a situation in which Iran is sort of let loose, if you will, in that part of the world with an inventory of nuclear weapons prepared to be used against other nations in the region, or to dominate that part of the globe and to threaten not only the United States but many of our friends and allies out there as well."
Cheney, who lived in Dallas for five years while he was CEO of Halliburton Co., insisted that the U.S. invasion of Iraq has nothing to do with oil. "We didn't go into the Middle East - we didn't go into Afghanistan because of oil because Afghanistant doesn't have any oil."
Cheney was in Dallas for a fundraiser for Texas Sen. John Cornyn and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. He went shopping with his wife Lynne beforehand. it would have been better if he had driving up I-35 to Norman to hear a real world view from Gen.Casey of how the U.S. can combat international terrorism, and from David Boren about the need to inject some sanity into the toxic political atmosphere.