Geographer Harm de Blij on the destiny of an unstable union.
Geographer Harm de Blij on the destiny of an unstable union. - 
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For Americans, elections mean maps -- half red, half blue -- that chart our fractious union. It's a union that, despite deep divisions on many topics, is seldom if ever in doubt.

You don't have to be a news junkie to know that the same cannot be said for the European Union. Blame the debt crisis if you will, but some think the seeds of failure were sown much earlier than that.

One of those people is Harm de Blij, the John A. Hanna professor of geography at Michigan State University and author of "Why Geography Matters More Than Ever."

"The question is: did that integration, which has taken not much more than half a century, go too fast, and therefore became too shallow to encompass all the diversity that European politics, economics, and culture entails?"

De Blij remembers the destruction of his hometown of Rotterdam, Holland by the Nazis at the outset of World War II, and he is not surprised that nations so bent on each others destruction 70 years ago have failed to unite in an indivisible way.

He says the union was designed to deter another continental war that wasted so many lives and so much treasure. "The system that they've tried to create to get over their fractiousness," he says, "is not working well."

Follow Kai Ryssdal at @kairyssdal