Zennie's main argument is based on the fact that U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, whom President Obama recently sacked as Afghan war commander for making disparaging remarks about various people (see Mark Urban's blog), is on record making a disparaging remark about a certain systems dynamics diagram.
In my post Visualizing Complexity, I discussed this very diagram, which is an attempt to visualize the complexity of the situation in Afghanistan using system dynamics, rendered as a PowerPoint slide. (Many people have chosen to blame PowerPoint for the complexity of this diagram.)
General McChrystal's remark was that "When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war." But that's the kind of remark that can be made either by someone who doesn't get systems thinking, or at the other extreme by someone who really gets systems thinking. Surely only a novice systems thinker would claim to fully understand a system as complex as this, especially while events are still unfolding.
Furthermore, there is an important distinction between systems thinking as a theoretical exercise and systems practice as a way of engaging with complex reality. From the latter perspective, it makes a lot of sense to see "understanding the slide" and "winning the war" as inextricably linked. For a practical systems thinker, the only authentic way to learn more about highly complex systems is to engage with them. (This is a critical element of what we call "next practice".)
And maybe General McChrystal just doesn't like this particular diagram. Zennie illustrates this point inadvertently by including an alternative systems dynamics diagram in his blog, using a completely different notation, which some systems thinker might prefer.
Zennie Abraham closes his article with a further double whammy to "prove" that McChrystal is not a systems thinker
"If Gen. McChrystal knew systems thinking, and were honest, he'd realize the best course of action is not to be in Afghanistan."
"If Gen. McChrystal were a systems thinker, he would not have got himself into the trouble that cost him his job."
But these two points contradict one another. Surely if McChrystal didn't want to be in Afghanistan, the obvious course of action would be to give an interview to Rolling Stone that would get him fired. And although Ahmed Rashid calls this a "hurtful rumour" (Petraeus's Baby, New York Blog, 14 July 2010), this is exactly what some commentators are suggesting.
"McChrystal gave the interview in order that he be fired. And why did he want to be fired? He wanted to be fired because he knew that the policies he was pursuing and championing in the war in Afghanistan were not working, could not work. And he didn't want to be the one tarnished with the public blame." (Immanuel Wallerstein, Why McChrystal Did It, Middle East Online, 1st July 2010)
So maybe McChrystal is a systems thinker after all. POSIWID.