Admin question: can you sign in and vote on the blog?

There may be an issue with the new voting feature on the blog. The screenshots below are a) not signed in (note the color of the star…no visible hyperlink under vote), b) signed in (note the color of the star…no visible hyperlink), and after clicking on the “x Vote(s)” text (note the checkmark in the star…still no underline indicating a hyperlink).




Can you go through the same sequence? I’ve heard from some that you can sign in but you cannot vote. I’ve tested this on IE 8, Firefox 3, and Google’s Chrome (my new favorite browser). One issue I have seen: after voting, the spinning dial icon that appears (or whatever it’s called) doesn’t go away until the page is refreshed and only then does the vote count increment.

Report: The “militarization” of diplomacy exists and is accelerating

The American Academy of Diplomacy came out with a critical and honest assessment of the militarization of America’s public diplomacy. The report emphasizes the lack of personnel, expertise, and overall resources to do its effectively do the job required. From the executive summary:

…our foreign affairs capacity is hobbled by a human capital crisis. We do not have enough people to meet our current responsibilities. Looking forward, requirements are expanding. Increased diplomatic needs in Iraq, Afghanistan and “the next” crisis area, as well as global challenges in finance, the environment, terrorism and other areas have not been supported by increased staffing. Those positions that do exist have vacancy rates approaching 15% at our Embassies and Consulates abroad and at the State Department in Washington, DC. USAID’s situation is even more dire. Today, significant portions of the nation’s foreign affairs business simply are not accomplished. The work migrates by default to the military that does have the necessary people and funding but neither sufficient experience nor knowledge. The “militarization” of diplomacy exists and is accelerating.

Currently the Secretary of State lacks the tools – people, competencies, authorities, programs and funding – to execute the President’s foreign policies. The status quo cannot continue without serious damage to our vital interests. We must invest on an urgent basis in our capabilities in the State Department, USAID, and related organizations to ensure we can meet our foreign policy and national security objectives. There must be enough diplomatic, public diplomacy, and foreign assistance professionals overseas and they cannot remain behind the walls of fortress embassies. They must be equipped and trained to be out, engaged with the populace and, where needed, working closely with the nation’s military forces to advance America’s interests and goals. This report provides a plan and a process to begin and carry forward the rebuilding of America’s foreign affairs capability.

Continue reading “Report: The “militarization” of diplomacy exists and is accelerating


“The “militarization” of diplomacy exists and is accelerating.” – A Foreign Affairs Budget for the Future: Fixing the Crisis in Diplomatic Readiness from the American Academy of Diplomacy. (see also this post)

“The trends across the board are not going in the right direction. And I would anticipate next year would be a tougher year.” – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen, The New York Times.

“The announcement last week that the United States will relocate its London embassy from Grosvenor Square, in the heart of the British capital, to an out-of-the-way spot south of the River Thames may be good news for property developers, but should concern almost everyone else. The London move is the latest and most dramatic example of a worrying trend toward vastly scaling down American public diplomacy abroad, abandoning embassies that were once beacons of American culture and openness in favour of walled suburban fortresses.” – Globe and Mail, 6 October 2008 (h/t KAE)

“The New York Times’ Web site is getting more global, and is going bye-bye.” – Forbes, 7 October 2008 (h/t KAE)

“There was no single silver bullet, but rather a multifaceted strategy crafted and carried out by those in Baghdad — not, despite recent claims, in Washington.” – Linda Robinson in the Washington Post (see also Tom Barnett)

“Whatever the final form it takes, the establishment of Africom is a good idea whose time has come — finally. The command’s emphasis on civil-military integration and a low-key operational profile is appropriate and well suited to its mission. We should wish it well.” – Bob Killebrew, Africom Stands-Up. (see also this post)

Event: New America Foundation conference on Al Qaeda 3.0 – with live webcast

The pace of “what’s next” conference is picking up. From the New America Foundation:

Al Qaeda 3.0
The ‘War on Terror’ After the Bush Administration
At Al Qaeda 3.0, leading policy makers, law enforcement officials, scholars and journalists from around the world will assess the current threat posed by al Qaeda and its affiliates to the United States, Europe, the Middle East and South Asia. The conference speakers will also explore what steps the next administration should take in combating al Qaeda and its affiliates both at home and abroad.

The event is tomorrow, Friday, October 10, 2008. Start: 8:45a ET, Finish: 5p ET.

The conference has an impressive list of panelists (bios): Frances Fragos Townsend, Bruce Hoffman, Steve Coll, Peter Bergen, Lawrence Wright, Daniel Kimmage, Nir Rosen, Brian Fishman, Mohammed Hafex, Thomas Hegghammer, Marc Sageman (no, Bruce and Marc are not on the same panel), and others.

Register here.

New Army Doctrine Places Stability Operations Equal to Military Combat Power

While military operations may neutralize immediate “kinetic” threats, enduring change comes from stabilizing the unstable and building capacity to self-govern where there is none. Security, humanitarian relief, governance, economic stabilization, and development are critical for ultimate democratization, but more importantly, for peace and security locally and globally. Without competent and comprehensive engagement in these areas of “soft power,” tactical “hard power” operations are simply a waste of time, money, and life.

This week the U.S. Army released a new field manual, FM 3-07 Stability Operations, to adapt the military to these requirements of the modern age. The manual “represents a milestone in Army doctrine,” writes LTG Bill Caldwell in the foreword.

It is a roadmap from conflict to peace, a practical guidebook for adaptive, creative leadership at a critical time in our history. It institutionalizes the hard-won lessons of the past while charting a path for tomorrow. This manual postures our military forces for the challenges of an uncertain future, an era of persistent conflict where the unflagging bravery of our Soldiers will continue to carry the banner of freedom, hope, and opportunity to the people of the world.

Continue reading “New Army Doctrine Places Stability Operations Equal to Military Combat Power

FCC to Probe “Hidden Hand” Analysts

The Federal Communications Commission is looking into whether the Pentagon’s program to use and leverage retired officers as “message force multipliers.” David Barstow broke the story in The New York Times earlier this year. Today, writing in the Congressional Quarterly, John M. Donnelly’s reports the FCC launched a probe to “address congressional questions about a Pentagon program viewed by some lawmakers as propaganda.”

The FCC is looking into whether TV networks and certain on-air analysts broke the law by failing to disclose to viewers that the apparently independent analysts were in fact part of a Pentagon-funded information campaign, a spokesman for the commission said.

“What I can confirm is that the enforcement bureau at the FCC is looking into this matter, and I can confirm that they have sent letters in connection with it, seeking information,” the spokesman said late Tuesday, without elaborating on when the inquiry began or who its targets are.

Continue reading “FCC to Probe “Hidden Hand” Analysts

Admin: MountainRunner got a make-over

MountainRunner got a make-over. The fresh look and feel will make the site easier to use and the new features should help make MountainRunner your first stop for information on public diplomacy and strategic communication.

The “community features” of MovableType 4.2 will become more noticeable as I roll-out capabilities over the coming weeks. In the meantime, here is a short list of enhancements available now:

  • Login to make commenting easier and to access new and forthcoming features. With the update, some of bugs in commenting (signed in but not signed in is one I experienced) are gone.
  • If you like a post, give it a vote to promote it. To vote, you have to register and sign in. Sorry, there is no thumbs down feature.
  • There are certain key concepts to this blog. Now, instead of searching blog posts, one click will get you to the resource page on the subject.

The new MountainRunner will incorporate the repository aspect of ConflictWiki ( that never got off the ground. Soon you’ll see a link on the right side for a new repository of reports and book lists on public diplomacy, strategic communication, information operations, etc.

ASIG_Logo One last item. On the left margin of the blog, you may also have noticed a new image. The logo is for my firm, Armstrong Strategic Insights Group (note the mountain; no runner though). For more, visit the still-developing site Longer white papers will be published from ASIG with an accompanying post on the MountainRunner blog.

American Public Diplomacy Wears Combat Boots: the Pentagon’s $300 million to “engage and inspire”

American public diplomacy wears combat boots. Not only is the Pentagon in the critical last three feet of engagement virtually and in person with audiences around the globe, especially in contested areas, but it is the Defense Department that is putting up the money to expand public diplomacy. The Pentagon’s 3-year, $300 million contract for private companies to “engage and inspire” Iraqis to support U.S. objectives and the Iraqi government, described by Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus in the Washington Post, is more than an effort five years too late. It is one more shining example of the significant failure of the U.S. Government to come to grips with the present need and commit the resources necessary to engage in the Second Great War of Ideas that began in earnest nearly a decade ago.

Continue reading “American Public Diplomacy Wears Combat Boots: the Pentagon’s $300 million to “engage and inspire”


Highlighted Blog: US Army Combined Arms Center. Pick your model, CAC or UK FCO, both are excellent. Be sure to check out CAC’s blog and user stats page.

“As my friend the late Sheriff Gene Darnell always told me, the best politics is doing a good job.” – Representative Ike Skelton, D-MO, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee discussing improving the interagency process but raising the point that the deeds speak louder than words.

“It is not every day that a young US Army officer has the opportunity to interact with a sitting head of state who has both lead a revolution and fought a counterinsurgency. CGSC students and faculty had just that chance on Friday when Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni visited the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.” – LTG Bill Caldwell sharing President Museveni’s five conditions and four phases for revolutionary war.

“[T]here is also increasingly broad recognition within the military that the expertise USAID brings with regard to providing effective and culturally-appropriate humanitarian assistance to foster long-term economic and political progress in the developing world will be decisive as the U.S. government strives to develop capabilities aimed at not only defeating ongoing insurgencies, but creating conditions in threatened nations that will be key to preempting future insurgencies.” – LTC David Menegon and Jeffrey Ashley, Ph.D., in Operational Design Prototype for USAID and DOD Synchronization: The Art of the Strategic Process for PRTs in Iraq.


Use Google as if it were January 2001.

Congratulations to Chris Albon, blogger at War and Health, for completing his comprehensives.

Reconstruction and Stabilization Corps to be Enacted

Military operations may neutralize immediate kinetic threats and strategic communications may make promises, but enduring change comes from systemic overhauls that stabilize unstable regions. Security, humanitarian relief, governance, economic stabilization, and development are critical for stability and denial of sanctuary for violent extremism, terrorism, and insurgency. These are the real propaganda of deeds but without competent and comprehensive action in these areas, military and diplomatic actions are simply a waste of time, money, and life.

Continue reading “Reconstruction and Stabilization Corps to be Enacted