About the Blog

Luna looking at deer in the distance
The real Mountainrunner overlooking one of her trail, in this case, Sullivan Ridge above Santa Monica and Brentwood, CA.

(Matt Armstrong’s bio is here)

This blog began as my own anonymous exercise to practice writing. It was never intended to be a platform to expand the conversations around the various topic areas this blog has covered. I first launched MountainRunner on TypePad in November 2004 a few months after I returned to university to complete my undergraduate degree in international relations. I had left school over a decade earlier to run my own technology company (programming, architecting LAN and SAN systems for reliable regional and global availability) and later to be the “Director of MIS” (a dated term) at a regional communications and public relations shop. I ultimately ended up in the knowledge management business — getting the right information to the right person at the right time, see the connection to today? — before returning to school. In short, I needed to relearn writing in plain English.

The absence of a clear goal for the blog, beyond the simple need to write (“butt in chair”), the topics largely followed my studies and contemporary and past interests. The first post of MountainRunner was entitled “Robot Grunts.” Other subjects included examinations into the privatization of force (i.e. private military companies) and the role of public opinion in counterinsurgency and foreign policy. Early on, a professor tasked me with reviewing PMCs expecting me to conclude that they were a clear violation of human rights and the laws of war. Instead, I found that they were more potentially accountable than UN peacekeepers. What followed was authoring several magazine articles, a couple of journal articles, a book chapter, and nearly writing my own book on private military companies (the book outline was accepted by a university press, but my interests shifted to “public diplomacy” before I began that project in earnest). An interest in unmanned warfare on the ground (autonomous, semi-autonomous, and remotely-controlled vehicles with lethal weapon systems) remained throughout, as the first post suggested, but later this shifted into the context of counterinsurgency. There were several articles, an academic paper or two, a few presentations, and a conference paper or two.

Eventually, late in 2006, I “came out” of the darkness and put my name on the blog, and yet the blog still grew. While there have always comments on posts, generally there were 3-5 offline conversations for every online comment. Invitations to meet in DC increased in frequency — with House and Senate staff, State Department leadership and employees, and Defense Department officials and staff. Conference invites, speaker engagements, advisory and consulting roles followed.

In 2011, I became the Executive Director of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. In late 2010, as the bureaucracy was doing the background checks and other preparations, the then-Under Secretary of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs placed a condition on my hire as Executive Director: that I stop blogging. While this was a violation of State Department policy then (and probably still), I was burned out on blogging and agreed.

In 2013, when I was confirmed by the Senate to the position of Governor on the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the public affairs team expressed real concern over what I might write after I expressed an interest in relaunching this site.

I never did really return to blogging, but I reserve the right to post my personal views when I feel like it. There is an email list that will occassionally include items not posted on the blog, so feel free to click the link above to subscribe to that.

I do accept guest posts, but read the policy on guest posts before submitting an idea or post. Guest posts reflect the views of the author and are not necessarily a reflection of my opinion. They may, in fact, be counter to my opinion(s) and hosted here to further a discussion. There are boundaries and basic qualitative requirements to further the conversation for a guest post to be published here. Guest posts that are clearly promotional will not be published. This blog is apolitical and will not be used to further political positions or an official agency viewpoint.

As always, don’t hesitate to let me know if you have a suggestion, comment, or criticism about an item on the blog or related to a blog topic. I enjoy an informed debate, which is a key reason for restarting this blog.

Considering that the bulk of this blog’s archives date from before 2010, it is worth stating that as knowledge and experience is gained, views evolve. With that, let me share a relevant quote from John Maynard Keynes: ‘When facts change, I change my mind. What do you, sir?’