About the Blog

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

I’m often asked about the history of the blog, so here is the story.

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 site 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 as the “Director of MIS” (I think I aged a little bit just writing that) at a regional communications and public relations shop. I ultimately ended up at one of the largest mutual fund companies in the U.S. in the knowledge management business — getting the right information to the right person at the right time… see a connection to today? — before returning to school. In short, by then I needed to relearn writing in plain English.

The name MountainRunner came from my running buddy, Luna. When I visited the TypePad site and started to open an account for a blog, the needed a name for a blog. Not having thought about that before, I paused. Looking to my left at my sleeping canine, I was tempted to write Luna but that was too personal. I could have written Teddy, my other running pal, a three-legged turbo who would run until he collapsed without forced pauses, but I went with Luna’s nickname.

The absence of a clear goal for the blog, beyond the simple need to write (AIC or “butt in chair”), the topics largely followed my studies and contemporary interests at the time. The first post of MountainRunner was entitled “Robot Grunts” and looked at robots in warfare. 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 in 2007), but my interests shifted to “public diplomacy” before I began that project in earnest (I do wish I had stayed on that path long enough to finish that book). 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 on this subject, an academic paper or three, a few presentations, and a conference paper or two.

Stepping back a bit, while getting my Masters, I “came out” of the darkness and put my name on the blog in late 2006. And yet, the blog still grew. While there have always been comments on posts, posts generally garnered 3-5 offline conversations for every published comment online. 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 is), honestly I was burned out on blogging and agreed to the condition.

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

However, I never really returned to writing here as I had before for a variety of reasons.

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 are 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?”