The number one sign you might be about to lose a war

[Army Lt. General David] McKiernan had another, smaller but nagging issue: He couldn’t get [Tommy] Franks to issue clear orders that stated explicitly what he wanted done, how he wanted to do it, and why.

Rather, Franks passed along PowerPoint briefing slides that he had shown to Rumsfeld: “It’s quite frustrating the way this works, but the way we do things nowadays is combatant commanders brief their products in PowerPoint up in Washington to OSD and Secretary of Defense … In lieu of an order, or a frag [fragmentary order], or plan, you get a bunch of PowerPoint slides…

Hat tip to Matthew Yglesias.

Elsewhere, from a critique of the intelligence community’s actions in Afghanistan:

The format of intelligence products matters. Commanders who think PowerPoint storyboards and color-coded spreadsheets are adequate for describing the Afghan conflict and its complexities have some soul searching to do.

Sufficient knowledge will not come from slides with little more text than a comic strip. Commanders must demand substantive written narratives and analyses from their intel shops and make the time to read them. There are no shortcuts. Microsoft Word, rather than PowerPoint, should be the tool of choice for intelligence professionals in a counterinsurgency.

I was optimistic about the war, but now…