A Suez-type moment?
If you know anybody from the babyboom generation who was involved in politics, and ask them the year that everything changed, it is not 1968 but 1956 they will cite.
That was the year the British establishment broke over its failed military adventure in Egypt; when it became clear that power had really shifted in the world; that the Soviet Union would crack down on dissent in Eastern Europe; the year in which, despite labelling Gamel Abdel Nasser another Hitler, the Brits were eventually forced to back down from confrontation with him.
I've spent the day following up the Bahrain crisis. I was on Twitter at 2am UK time, as it broke, and my screen erupted with near-live photo feeds of what was happening at Pearl Square.
Since then I've spoken to Middle East experts, global risk strategists, protesters, and old British "hands" in what's left of this country's great game east of the Suez Canal (i.e. not much).
The risk people are right now monitoring such tangible signals as the amount of flour in bakeries from Casablanca to Tabriz; the words used in the sermons of small-town Imams, and the loyalty of various junior officers to various regimes. The old hands persist in their belief that democracy cannot be allowed to come to the "immature" countries that are now demanding it. But what's really interesting is the way it's starting to look to global strategists.
Ian Bremmer, of the Eurasia Group, told me tonight he believed the crisis illustrates there is a G-Zero situation - that is, not the G7, G8, nor G20 is really in control of things; that the Obama administration does not have a "doctrine" for the Middle East - that, in other words the question: "What does the State Department do now?" is for the first time in living memory not the most important question in world affairs.
All this, to me, is redolent of the Suez moment - when the Brits realised they did not rule the roost anymore, and that America did. Only now we're beginning to feel in global politics what business consultants have known for half a decade: it's a "multi-polar world" (copyright Accenture plc).
I've asked several people whether, at CENTCOM, the USA's strategic HQ in Qatar, they would have a plan for what to do if the entire backyard of absolute monarchies that they were supposed to be defending against Iran suddenly melted down into chaos at the very moment the Iranian regime also became engulfed in a revolution. Nobody knows. But my guess is it was not the front and centre scenario they train for.
And so this year of fire blazes on, into the unknown.