Why, looking back, why was it that the communist guerrillas were really in many ways much more effective than the South Vietnamese army and political structure?
Well, communist guerrillas are an expression of an authoritarian system in politics and as such they have very strict disciplines. So part of the reason the North Vietnamese and the communist guerrillas and the regular forces behaved so differently than the South Vietnamese stem from the authoritarian practices.
Now there's a carrot and stick with this. The stick is the very harsh discipline that they run under. The carrot is the political reality to them that they make use of and apply and their own campaigns which the communist generals, their leadership in combat always strove towards having the influence and control over the people in the battlegrounds.
Our side was always going after defeating the enemy forces with military. So essentially they...the Vietnamese communists were trying to gain control over the people where we were trying to destroy an enemy. They were political, we were military. And what you...they figured once they got control of the people and the ways that they lived and so on, that when the country...now this was done by them through a political cadre system that they had throughout their armed forces, that reported up through separate channels of command and communication up to their headquarters where the political cadre would have an equal voice with the military commander.
And thus was a very important figure in their armed forces. He would lecture the troops on political motives before going in to combat, he would do his best all the time to have them get along with the people and to gain the confidence of the people or alliance with them. After the combat, after action meeting in which it was like a public confessional, each of the troops would have to get up and explain what he did wrong in combat and why he's never going to do it again and apologize to his comrades.
Well, you can see what happens in combat when, you know afterwards he's got to stand up and talk to the men to the right and left of you how you let them down by either wrong thinking or action at the time or he wasn't all gung ho as he was. So that the motivation of the forces was constantly at a high political pitch and they were always being in a position of hearing explanations of why they were doing something and what its end results were supposed to be.
Where on our side we simply never got into a troop information and education program that we had in this country and the troops often only had vague notions of why they were in the place and were doing something for a government that they knew just the names of a few individuals in.