By Orkhan Amashov
A statesman’s leadership qualities can be measured in myriad ways. There is no unified formula applicable to every case. But it is generally believed that it is at a time of crisis, or when there is an urgent need for the ultimate concentration of a nation’s resources, that a leader's true greatness is revealed.
Even a leader with the makings of a formidable statesman and a proven record of success may fail to pass rigorous tests that are de rigueur for those whose shoulders support the weight of the destiny of their countries. The Second Karabakh War has unveiled the essence of Ilham Aliyev’s political personality. At this supreme moment, he got it absolutely right.
No-one, at least no serious individual, had the slightest doubt about Ilham Aliyev’s credentials as an effective politician. However, it was the 44-day war that happened to be a moment of truth for Azerbaijan and its President. Both the nation and its gallant leader have risen to the occasion, inducing reverberations that will be felt by posterity.
Any war, regardless of whether you are on the victorious side, is a crisis of the highest order, in which clear and trustworthy forms of communication become the most essential components of leadership. Politicians prefer a roundabout way of expressing themselves. Ilham Aliyev, however, has taken the art of explaining complex issues in simple, straightforward language to a whole new level. He has proven to be the antithesis of some of his counterparts, who can complexify even the simplest issue and cloud meaning with unnecessary garrulity and evasiveness.
The kernel of his messages has never been intertwined in ludicrous livery. His addresses to the nation, both during the war and after, were informative and some, without any degree of exaggeration, were textbook lectures on the intricacies of the former Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
In a world in which unfounded allegations are permitted to flow freely, and sometimes even transmogrify into contrived truths, if left uncontested, world leaders are expected to deal with all forms of ludicrous insinuations. However, it is a sign of imperturbable superiority to react calmly to unfounded allegations.
During the Second Karabakh War, despite the fact that no claimant provided a single shred of hard evidence substantiating the use of Syrian mercenaries by Azerbaijan, international media was rife with rumours. Ilham Aliyev was the voice of reason amidst the collective hysteria that steered across the globe. He never lost his temper and always acted, amongst other positive traits, with emotional intelligence, defying the stark odds.
In his interviews, addresses to the nation and press conferences, he emerged as a one-man diplomatic powerhouse. President Aliyev also felt the pulse of the nation in an unmistakable manner. He exercised his discretion to reveal news in such a manner that one was compelled to be convinced that euphoria could be a permanent state of affairs. On each single occasion, prior to his addresses to the nation, Azerbaijan felt pregnant with a colossal triumph.
In defending the nation’s interests, President Aliyev has proven to be a duly focused and indomitable operator. During the war, he not merely frightened the life out of the enemy, but also made its beleaguered and unqualified leader vacillate and flounder. The ineffectual Armenian prime minister was compelled to expostulate the brunt of his displeasure in his own miserable backyard, making pathetic pleas revealing his cumbersome sins and finding himself stupefied, up to the point of telling fairy tales.
Magnanimity within limits is a virtue. It is another unmistakable trait of a leader with acumen to stop a war at the right time. Armenians, the South Caucasus and the world at large are yet to pay their tribute to the Azerbaijani President Aliyev for his compassion and wisdom, which saved lives on both sides.
Furthermore, during his leadership, he has managed to maximise the geopolitical resources of his country, enabling it to punch above its weight and transform into what many influential think-tanks believe is a “middle power”. In our days, in politics and beyond, events tend to unfold quicker than in the past, and thus it is crucial to see the inception of a pattern in advance, before its nascent emergence, and then to thread the needle. President Aliyev managed to bring two regional heavyweights, Russia and Turkey, which are also rivals, to welcome a shared perspective, which ensured they were not at loggerheads in a way that could have been detrimental to Baku’s interests.
We all acknowledge that he spearheaded the army, which became an effective war machine under his management, operating at his personal behest. He has given to my generation, whose childhood was marred with the troubles of the 90s, a new licence and changed our self-perception, enabling us to see the world around in a different light. Younger persons, who are yet at a formative stage, will grow with a victorious mentality.
Ilham Aliyev is turning 60 today. This is a milestone in the life of any human being. He stands high enough not to be in need of lengthy panegyrics. Aliyev’s place in history has already been cemented.
They say politics is the art of the possible. President Aliyev has stretched the confines of the possible and, to a certain extent, succeeded in the art of the impossible. The annals of history are yet to issue their loftier encomiums of him.
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