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 after leaving 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 a “Director of MIS” (older readers will know what MIS stood for). 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 plain English.
The absence of a clear goal for the blog, beyond the simple need to write (“butt in chair”), the topics presented here 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 scholarly article or two, a book chapter, and nearly my own book on private military companies (the book outline was accepted by a university press in the midwest, but my interests shifted to “public diplomacy” before I started that project in earnest). And then there was an interest in unmanned warfare on the ground (autonomous, semi-autonomous, and remotely-controlled vehicles with lethal weapon systems), particularly in the context counterinsurgency. There were several articles, an academic paper or two, a few presentations, and a conference paper or two.
Eventually, late in 2006, I 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 became a Governor on the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the public affairs team was concerned about what I might write on the blog after 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.
About Guest Posts: they are accepted, 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?’