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Romance of war: Libyan rebels rejoice, but now the work begins (PA Images)

One of the most haunting books to emerge from the wreckage of the Great War was Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, a scorching antidote to the idea of war as romantic pastime. With the final disintegration of the Gaddafi regime in Tripoli, a dictatorship that lasted more than ten times as long as the First World War, one is tempted to hope that all will soon be quiet on the North African front.

Yet it would be unwise to expect an entirely smooth and peaceful transition in Libya after 42 years of this most odious of regimes. There will be bumps, if not hills and mountains, along the way. To venture a few predictions, there will be reprisals, bloodletting and assassinations. Rival tribes and politicians will jockey for power. There will be tensions between east and west, as there have been for centuries. Corruption will not disappear with the Mad Dog and his luxury-loving sons.

After the destruction of the past six months, it will take time — Shukri Ghanem, the former oil minister, suggests 18 months — for Libya to recover its pre-war level of oil production of 1.6 million barrels a day. The challenge of restructuring a largely state-owned economy will be formidable. Expectations will be high, frequently unrealistic, and must be carefully managed through effective communications. For all the transition and stabilisation planning in the world — and much excellent work has been done in Benghazi — a period of uncertainty is inevitable. There will be times when it looks distinctly ugly. It cannot be otherwise.

None of this should surprise us, nor should it detract from Nato's and the Libyan rebels' extraordinary success in this campaign against Gaddafi. Detractors argued from the outset, with ever greater volume and desperation, that the Nato campaign was "running into the sand". Lazy commentators who should have known better talked of "stalemate". I recall one BBC producer complaining to me several months ago that Gaddafi's unexpected resilience had spoiled the timing of one of his television programmes, as though this was a war that had to conform to media deadlines.

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