Shadows on the Silk Road

An American contemplates his homeland’s travails across the vast expanse of time as he treks across the rubble of another once dynamic but collapsed experiment in multilateralism: the Silk Road.

Early twilight over the famous old city of Khiva in Uzbekistan. PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

YANGON (NYTIMES) - The looming decline of the United States was revealed to me, five Novembers ago, at a truck stop in Uzbekistan.

I was napping after a long day's hike near the old trading city of Kokand when a brawl exploded. Drunks howled. Fists smacked flesh. Somewhere a window shattered. An anxious waitress poked her head into my curtained dining booth. She wanted to know if I had any sugar in my backpack for a homemade compress to stanch a client's stab wound.

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