Melchett: Don't worry my boy, if you should falter, remember that Captain Darling and I are behind you.
Captain Blackadder: About thirty-five miles behind you.Armchair Generals (and Admirals) are those persons who decide to critique and/or run military operations from the comfort of their - ah, well, chairs. This shouldn't be a surprise. There are two interpretations:
- The Big Brass who enjoy the thrill of moving all the little symbols around the big maps and seeing the pretty colours change, (selectively) oblivious to the litany of human suffering their orders entail. Prone to saying "We Have Reserves" and being somewhat divorced from reality, especially when 'the book' contradicts common sense. Prone to hog any credit for success and slough off any blame, and often inordinately fond of Bling of War. They are almost by definition Soldiers at the Rear, yet have no sense for anything as unimportant, boring, and undignified as logistics.
- Noncombatants (with or without a military background) commenting on actual military operations (as professional pundits or otherwise) or wargaming past military operations with other enthusiasts. Often have trouble telling the difference between the 'paper'/theoretical and 'actual' strength and performance of forces. Particularly prone to obsessing over the specifications of weapons and equipment and championing their favourites. Despite their interest in the technical aspects of warfare, they usually don't have the time for anything as unimportant, mundane, and uncool as logistics.
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Anime and Manga
- In Patlabor 2: The Movie, the civilian government and police act this way, undermine their control over the military, and allow the terrorists to attack Tokyo.
- In Maiden Rose, every administration that we see has its own armchair military. In Vol. 2 the brass from Taki's country are particularly obstructive and serve as a contrast to the type of frontline leader Taki is.
- Lelouch pointedly averts this trope in Code Geass. "If a general does not lead, how can he expect his subordinates to follow?" While he isn't necessarily on the front lines, he is personally present at nearly every battle he commands. He takes this philosophy to such an extreme that his chess strategies often involve the king being right out with the rest of the pieces, making offensive moves.
- Hilariously this doesn't or barely works since his troops are prone to threatening him and running if the battle isn't going in their favor. This is why Lelouch turns the Black Knights into a military force because in his second major battle his troops ran. In the third major battle? They would've ran beforehand but Lelouch the Magnificent Bastard that he is told them they had no choice but to fight and threatened to kill himself and leave them helpless when they threatened mutiny.
- Yuna Roma Seiran of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny thinks he's a brilliant strategist because of his experience with war games. In practice, he makes General Failure Lord Djibril (who at least has a certain ruthlessness to commend him) look brilliant.
- Subverted in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED by Captain William Sutherland, a General Staff officer notable for both his banality and Moral Event Horizon-crossing strategies. Sutherland seems like an armchair admiral who can only recommend the strategies he does because he's never actually seen combat. Yet in the final episodes it's Sutherland who leads the attack on ZAFT from aboard his flagship, the Doolittle; it quickly becomes apparent that he uses the tactics he does not because he is ignorant, but because he has no regard for human life.
- Muruta Azrael also counts he sits back and watches the carnage his forces unleash, but should things go wrong he starts throwing hissy fits to the one in charge, and he demands his forces to keep on attacking no matter what.
- General Damon from Valkyria Chronicles and his top brass commanders never take part of the fighting itself, show racism to Darcen soldiers, and overall are terrible commanders. It's no wonder that they are rather unpopular among fans.
- The original Mobile Suit Gundam plays with this in the form of Gihren Zabi, the son of Sovereign Degwin Zabi, and Supreme Commander of Zeon's forces. A definitive Non-Action Big Bad, Gihren has, unlike his brothers and sister, never seen combat. He's also a totally ruthless psychopath who has no problems with throwing away the lives of his soldiers. At the same time, however, Gihren is also reasonably competent, organising the war effort, leaving the tactical and operational decisions to his siblings, and holding the country together through his genuine skills as an orator. It's not until near the end of the war that some of his strategic mistakes actually begin to catch up with him.
- What makes this even worse is that Gihren has a bunch of fanatic fanboys, such as Delaz and Gato, who hang on his every word and would die for his cause. This is particularly bad concerning this trope as Delaz ends up pulling out his fleet when Gihren is killed, considering the (possibly) more experienced Kycillia a waste of time, though that is more due to the fact that she killed him.
- In Attack on Titan the higher-ranking members of the Police Brigade are seen slacking off, forcing the new recruits to do all the dirty work.
Verman: ALRIGHT, EVERYONE, LISTEN UP! IT IS CONFIRMED, THAT YES, TITANS ARE IN THE CITY, AND YES, YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TO FIGHT THEM! EVEN THOUGH YOU'RE ALL FRESH OUT OF TRAINING! THIS MAY SEEM STRANGE TO YOU, HOWEVER, WE BELIEVE, THAT YOUTH WILL OUTWEIGH EXPERIENCE IN THIS SITUATION! WHICH IS WHY I WILL BE COMMANDING FROM THIS WELL FORTIFIED CASTLE!!
- Rebuild of Evangelion: Shinji criticizes Misato (and the rest of NERV's command staff) of this near the end of the first movie, asking how it's fair that he's the only one risking his life. Misato shows him Lilith, the Angels' objective, housed beneath NERV, and explains that if the Angels were ever to reach Lilith, all human life on the planet would end. She goes on to say that, therefore, NERV's command staff is hardly "safe": if Shinji and the other Eva pilots were to fail in their mission, everyone will die anyway, so they're all risking their lives together. This manages to convince Shinji.
- Most of Garth Ennis' works use this trope, especially in the WW2 stories. As these are told from the viewpoint of the frontline troops, high command generally shows a level of incompetence rarely seen outside the Imperial Guard.
- Tintin: In The Broken Ear, Tintin is made colonel-aide-de-camp by supreme-dictator-of-the-week Alcazar. When another colonel points out that maybe this is a bit hasty, as Alcazar's army has 3483 colonels for 27 corporals, Alcazar agrees... and retrogrades the colonel to corporal.
- Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: Has a comment on this. While Optimus and Megatron often lead from the front (and tear both grunts and each other apart), a few cons talk of one battle where both of them were sealed inside rooms and had sensory feeds of every one of their soldiers fed directly into their brains to better coordinate the battlefield. One con remarks that thousands of lives were turned into statistics as the two leaders sat in their chairs (minds strained to the limit) directing everything. There is no further recording of this practice. Most bot and con leaders tend to avert this, and the one who comes closest to playing it straight is Prowl, who relies on lots of behind the scenes manipulation to get tasks done (he even made a secret behind-the-scenes task force to eliminate threats), but he can normally be seen taking up arms and directing on the battlefield.
- Saga: The planet Landfall is locked in a Forever War with its moon, Wreath. They both realized early on than one world couldn't destroy the other without knocking themselves out of orbit. So the war was outsourced to the rest of the galaxy with the populations of Landfall and Wreath not experiencing or caring about the war.
- By definition, the Battle Commanders in Tiberium Wars have to command in this way, standing far off from the battlefield and issuing complex, often micromanaging orders to their units in the field. Both of the Commanders, however, get brushes with front line action and are no slouches in personal combat, and the GDI Commander, Karrde, deliberately goes out into the field with his troops and commands close to the front to earn their respect.
- Fridge Brilliance kicks in when you realize that the way each Battle Commander handles his men reflects the attitude of their forces in-game: Karrde's hands-on A Father to His Men style inspires them to fight harder, as opposed to Rawne, who deliberately stays detached so he can apply We Have Reserves thinking to the Nod forces, who in a one-to-one fight get slaughtered.
- The Grand Pegasus Enclave of Fallout: Equestria once took nearly 2 days to authorize an assassination of the main character, which gave her the advantage in choosing familiar terrain. In one instance, a rescue mission for a downed Raptor was only carried out in time to rescue anyone because the crew mutinied instead of following protocol.
- In The Universiad, the failure of the First Incursion was in part due to these sorts "commanding" MILNET. Afterwards, GhanjRho had them deposed and replaced with properly able officers.
- Offscreen in "Remembrance of the Fallen", Tiana Lanstar overheard some random civilian saying he could've come out of the situation her brother died in against the Orion Syndicate with his skin intact. She had to be pulled off him by the San Francisco police.
- In "Shakedown Shenanigans" Eleya accuses Vice Admiral Harnett from Starfleet Science to his face of being the second version after he calls her crazy. She rattles off that he's the author of 32 peer-reviewed papers and a 2392 Nobel Prize for Physics laureate, then asks him if he's ever fired his service weapon outside the range.
Eleya: I’m not a scientist, Admiral, and I’m not a diplomat, either. I’m a soldier, plain and simple. You point me at a battlefield, I will give you a victory. This is what I do, Admiral. This is what I do.
- "Last Rights": In the canon Star Trek Online game Kobali General Q'Nel is a hypocritical, out-of-his-depth bureaucrat. He's not portrayed at all sympathetically here. Lyndsay Ballard, formerly a Starfleet officer from a Star Trek: Voyager episode, now the Kobali Armaments Minister, calls him an "overranked bean-counter".
- Marshall Murdock in Rambo: First Blood Part II was an armchair general. Of course, he had direct orders that the mission was supposed to fail.
- Brigadier General Quintard (John Travolta) in The Thin Red Line.
- Some movies show generals in British High Command during World War II as heartless armchair generals.
- Subverted in The Hunt for Red October. Jack Ryan is an author of books on naval history and a CIA analyst, but he winds up rolling up his sleeves and going face-to-face with Captain Ramius. However Ramius also lampshades the trope when he learns what book Jack wrote and tells Ryan that his conclusions were all wrong.
- However, Ryan was actually in the military, a U.S. Marine. The novels and movies tell slightly different stories on how his career ended, but agree that his career ended right at the start when he survived a helicopter crash that left him partially disabled.
- In both the movie and the book, it is Captain Ramius and Captain Mancuso who do the submarine tactics in the battle at the end, while Ryan gets to turn the wheel whichever way they say and pray to God that he doesn't die.
- The overweight General Miller from In the Loop is frequently accused of being an armchair general because he has spent the last 15 years at The Pentagon and away from combat. Miller is appropriately insulted by the accusation. He actually does have combat experience in his past, and he's the one trying to prevent a dubious war. His hawk opponents, on the other hand, have no military experience and are trying to start a war for political reasons.
- In the 1979 All Quiet on the Western Front the protagonist is home on leave. When the civilians start spouting off their own theories about how to win the war, he tunes out of the conversation. In the 1930 version, the civilians have the audacity to dismiss the protagonist's experiences in the war by saying he hasn't seen the whole of it compared to them who apparently know a lot more, as they are sitting around a table, smoking cigars and moving pieces around a map. All Paul can do is sit and elicit an expression of sombre disbelief.
- Downfall depicts Adolf Hitler as this in the final days of the war, commanding divisions on his map which effectively no longer exist.
- According to Into the Storm (2009), Winston Churchill thought this of Eisenhower.
- About Face, an autobiography by Colonel David Hackworth, proposes that the war in Korea and Vietnam was undermined by academic 'experts' and military commanders with no understanding of what was happening in the field.
- David Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest is about the decisions of America's military and foreign policy experts under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations that led to the US getting bogged down in Vietnam.
- In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Straight Silver, the high command is explicitly described as regarding the war as a chess game, with all the pieces having fixed moves. They were also incapable of seeing that their strategy had been tried three times and failed all of them.
- It's worth elaborating on this to explain why Gaunt is so pissed off about this: the armchair generals running the show aren't even Imperial Guard, they're essentially planetary politicians. Even General Van Voytz notes the stupidity of the situation.
- Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!): anytime Cain has to deal with the Planetary Defense Force high command they tend to be this (in one case, he concluded authority was attributed depending on the number of chins). That's right, the Imperial Guard, the worst-equipped army whose generals include a guy who sent troops under fire without armor or air support, have less Armchair Military than the PDF.
- The armchair military appears in Discworld a few times, where there's much general critique of this style of warfare. The disconnect is especially notable in Night Watch, which features several scenes of two officers discussing the situation in their tent while Vimes (and the rest of the Night Watch) are engaged in the real fighting.
- Strangely, the gods of Discworld themselves may be an example of the first type, most notably in Small Gods. They play games with humanity on a board, and have no concept whatsoever that the people down there are real, until the climax, when Om goes up to Cori Celesti, the home of the gods, and forces them to pay attention to him and call off the war.
- Played with in Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Ender realizes he was sending real pilots into battle while he himself stayed safe, thinking it was all a simulation. It's both a plot point and the basis of the sequel that, had he known, he couldn't have done it. Speaker for the Dead is spent trying to make up for what he has done.
- Admiral James Cutter in Clear and Present Danger is depicted this way.
- In Stark's War and its two sequels, by John Hemry, the entirety of the US military command being loaded with this type is what causes the title character and his fellow soldiers to mutiny, after deciding they were through with micromanagement using horribly broken war theories getting troops killed for nothing. The technology of the setting makes it worse — every soldier has Powered Armor with permanently-on communication links, so the senior officers can be virtually present to (incompetently) micromanage troops even in heat of action.
- Senator Arnos in the fourth Codex Alera book Captain's Fury is the first type. Despite being a figure of authority in military tactics, Tavi notes that Arnos doesn't see the soldiers he's commanding as "real", having only seen battles through strategy meetings or high above the air in an air carriage. This causes him to adopt We Have Reserves-style strategies and try to order the deaths of civilians who the Canim spared as "sympathizers to the enemy".
- Subverted in the semi-literal but not figurative case of the real-life General David Petraeus, US Army (most famous for overseeing "The Surge" in Iraq) who has a fictional version of himself portrayed in The Salvation War. He's never at the front lines of any battle and at first glance seems to simply be commanding from the back through monitors. However, he's not unaware of the cost of war in lives, and he is damn good as a commander. In fact, he ends up as commander of the Human Expeditionary Army, although this is because only the U.S.A. has the command/control capability to actually lead a force of its (nominal) size.
- John Simpson is originally portrayed as armchair military when he cites his service as, "having served in the Pentagon". In later books, it comes out that before he served in the Puzzle Palace, he commanded a riverine unit in the Vietnam War. he even lost a leg
- Jeff and his friends are fascinated with military history. Of course they take to it like ducks to water.
- In David Drake's Hammer's Slammers, many of the titular mercenary unit's employers are distant from the actual fighting, and often have their own ideas on how the Slammers "should" do their job.
- In David Weber's Honor Harrington series, "Armchair Analysts" cause problems for both sides of the Manty-Peep war. Most of the "Good Guy" characters are disgusted by them, including Queen Elizabeth- you don't usually get a knighthood for assaulting your own diplomat, but if the man in question is a pompous, know-it-all idiot who was well on his way to ruining an alliance and possibly starting a second war...
- The Solarians are revealed to have a massive case of this when they are finally forced to go into battle against professional opponents instead of random pirates or beating up on isolated, underdeveloped and helpless planets. Attacking the allied Manticoran and Havenite forces, who by the end of their war have cleaned out almost all their bad commanders by the simple expedient of getting themselves killed or captured, and who have spent 20-odd years in a Lensman Arms Race that the Solarians have been blissfully oblivious to suddenly makes it terrifyingly clear to them that the proper designation for their huge fleet is "targets".
- In The Regeneration Trilogy, set in World War I, this idea is always in the background as the death toll goes up. The main character, British poet Siegfriend Sassoon, is very bitter about his superiors' ignorance of the soldier's suffering.
- The men responsible for organizing the Battle of Yonkers in World War Z were armchair military types. Their list of blunders included putting soldiers in hazmat suits that made it difficult for them to reload, not paying attention to the fact that they were fighting an army made entirely of infantry, therefore giving their tanks the wrong kind of ammunition, bringing bridgelayers, not securing the area or taking advantage of higher ground, digging trenches when they weren't needed, using a really big airstrike on just the front ranks of the enemy, and a whole bunch of other stuff. It's torn to shreds by the man being interviewed in the story, saying that most of the inappropriately chosen stuff was there for purely PR reasons.
- Worse than bridgelayers- they had Anti-Air and Electronic Warfare vehicles on hand to help battle the Zacks.
- What really put the nail in the coffin at Yonkers seems to have been the lack of ammunition for the infantry. The emphasis on deploying and providing for all the armour, artillery, anti-air, and electronic warfare units meant that the infantrymen were allotted just a handful of ammunition each. The contrast with the all-infantry clean-up forces deployed to take back the country - who use the only vehicles they have to transport a veritable mountain of ammunition for each and every trooper - is stark.
- War and Peace devotes several chapters to explaining how Russia's many losses during the Napoleonic Wars were thanks to various (mostly German) generals, who formulated complex plans based, on scientific/mathematical proofs of how wars SHOULD be fought, which served no purpose beyond turning their mob of poorly trained, poorly equipped, poorly led conscripts into a very tired and very confused mob of poorly trained, poorly equipped, poorly led conscripts. It doesn't help that they're all more concerned with earning favor with the Tsar and proving their pet theories than actually winning the war.
- While there is an element of truth in some cases, especially General Phull (who couldn't be bothered to learn Russian despite living there for five years before the 1812 invasion, as the language at the court was French anyway), the somewhat xenophobic Leo Tolstoy does tend to tar all "Germans" (some of whom were actually from the Baltic provinces of Russia) with the same brush, even maligning some of those who made the sensible suggestion that the Russian army should retreat in front of Napoleon's until the latter was reduced through lack of supplies, sicknesses etc. Many of the germanophobe Russian officers on the other hand advocated trying to stop Napoleon's army in pitched battles, even in the early phases of the campaign when it heavily outnumbered and was better led than the Russian one.
- The British secretary of state Lord Chesterfield also criticized those in the Letters to His Son: "...as that pedant talked, who was so kind as to instruct Hannibal in the art of war." (letter 93)
- In the final book of The Wheel of Time, then-current strategists and warriors are worried about this becoming the norm of military affairs with the addition of Gateway "skyboxes" to see whole battles from tents.
- In the backstory, Ishamael officially held the position of chief captain-general of the Shadow's forces, despite being a scholar, philosopher, and channeler who'd never actually led troops in battle in his life. Justified in that Ishamael held his title owing to being the Dark One's favorite; he always had generals with actual military experience (most notably Demandred, Sammael, and Be'lal) to lead the Shadow's forces in the field.
- In Outlander Leander, unusual circumstances have led Nagdecht to have two generals. General Glaive is the new, younger general, and is shown getting personally involved in missions with his private unit. When asked where General Oske is, however, General Glaive states, "At the castle, where he always is", suggesting Oske is an Armchair General.
- Star Carrier: Grand Admiral Giraurd, a Pan-European battle group commander who is sent to Alphekka to reel in Admiral Koenig in Center of Gravity and pursues him to a refueling stop in Singularity. Koenig exposits that Giraurd had made it to admiral mostly on political and family influence and had never actually seen combat.
- Discussed in Rihannsu: The Empty Chair. When acting as fleet commander for the Romulan rebellion at Augo, Jim Kirk notes with some amusement that, of course, anything and everything he does here today will be endlessly analyzed and armchair-quarterbacked for probably centuries to come.
- The scene from All Quiet on the Western Front mentioned under Film is taken directly from the novel.
- The trope is mentioned in Trickster's Choice. At one point, Ochobu (a mortal) blames Kyprioth for...getting beaten up and exiled by his fellow gods. Her implication is that Kyprioth just didn't try hard enough. Or he would have won. Kyprioth's response to this is brutal.
“You do not think gods may be routed from their thrones, and thrust into the outer parts of the Divine Realms?” Kyprioth asked Ochobu softly. “You do not believe a god may be so battered in combat with his land-hungry brother and sister that he might need centuries to heal? Do not speak of what I should have done, Ochobu Dodeka. You were not at my side on that battlefield.”
Live Action TV
- In Star Trek, almost anybody in Starfleet Command has been away from the sharp end for far too long.
- In the Deep Space Nine episode "The Maquis", Sisko complains that his superiors back on Earth will never understand the grievances of the Federation colonists because Earth is a paradise.
- Sisko manages to avoid becoming one when he has a major strategic operations role during the early Dominion War.
- In the episodes Homefront and Paradise Lost, an admiral who nearly topples the UFP government says politicians are armchair military.
- Some Expanded Universe novels do feature an admiral or two getting down and dirty when necessary. Even the stuck-up Admiral Arlen McAteer, whose grudge against Picard being made captain is entirely based on his own ideals for a perfect Starfleet (translation: Picard is too young to be a competent captain, despite his numerous successes).
- There is a fine example of one in Star Trek: Elite Force II, when a typical example of an armchair admiral disbands the Hazard Team as unnecessary in these "civilized" times. Along comes Picard and points out that this may be the case at the heart of the Federation but is definitely false on the outskirts. He promptly reassembles the Hazard Team despite the admiral's objections.
- In the Deep Space Nine episode "The Maquis", Sisko complains that his superiors back on Earth will never understand the grievances of the Federation colonists because Earth is a paradise.
- In the Babylon 5 episode "And Now For A Word", Sheridan refers to armchair quarterbacking from the Senate.
- A lot of the upper brass in Stargate SG-1 remain far behind the front lines. Subverted because they sometimes get down and dirty as well later. In the first couple of seasons nobody ever had to deal with a Stargate in the modern age for such a long period of time, leading to many mistakes.
- The best example, however, is the IOA. They make a lot of decisions that aren't logical at all.
- It's frequently pointed out in later seasons of SG-1 and Atlantis that the IOA, when faced with a difficult decision, will deliberate until after the deadline so that someone else can make the decision and they can criticize it. While the operating principle behind the IOA is sound (civilian oversight of military operations), they are so incredibly ineffectual as to be criminally negligent.
- And that's nothing compared to the fiasco they pulled off in The Ark of Truth: To fight the Ori, which they already have effective weapons against, the IOA decides to secretly build a Replicator (Replicators being the race that was such a threat, SG-1 had to use a galactic reset button to destroy them in Season 8) to infect an Ori ship with. To top that, they remove its weakness to the ''only'' effective weapon Earth has against the Replicators. Naturally, the Replicator gets loose and starts taking over the ship. Because it was designed by the ship's computer, it takes over really fast. Using the computer to create it revealed the ship's position to the Ori (Oh, yes, this all happens deep in enemy space, with no backup possible). End result? The Odyssey dead in space, a Replicator Queen churning out little bugs, while four Ori cruisers take turns shooting it.
- The best example, however, is the IOA. They make a lot of decisions that aren't logical at all.
- Anyone perceived as armchair military by M*A*S*H character Hawkeye was in for an interesting time.
- Blackadder Goes Forth. Played horrifically straight in the Finale.
- While the first three seasons do make a few jokes about armchair generals across history (particularly the third one), the fourth and final season is entirely devoted to this trope. It is basically a magnificent take-that for ruthless, uncaring military commanders who lead from behind and forget that they're sending people to fight and die. The british top brass of the Great War are depicted as insane, childish, ignorant idiots who run almost entirely on insane troll logic, sending millions to die so that they can move their desks a few inches closer to Berlin.
- Arnold Rimmer from Red Dwarf tries to justify his claim that he is a potential military prodigy despite his tendency of cowering in a corner whenever a fight happens.
- This trope is the entire point of the BBC game show Time Commanders, where random people off the street get to direct historical battles simulations (with help from historians and professional tacticians) to see if they can change the outcome of history. Just to mix it up, a few are given famous victories to try and reproduce.
- Courtney Massengale from Once An Eagle.
- A former soldier, Danny Pink of Doctor Who considers officers to be this and despises them as a result. This is a great part of why he dislikes the Doctor vehemently, comparing him to said military. Fewer things could be farther from the truth.
- The Watcher's Council on Buffy the Vampire Slayer is this at its worst. Many see themselves as the real heroes fighting the real fight and Slayers as just the tools they use. The fact that a new Slayer will be called whenever one dies does not help, as it enforces the mentality of We Have Reserves to the point where they treat the girls as wholly expendable.
- Armchair General's name is probably a tongue-in-cheek reference to the trope, seeing as how it's a magazine mainly about tabletop and computer wargaming.
- Elite Agent French Fries in Dino Attack RPG certainly qualifies. In his first appearance he casually orders Zenna to expose globally a top-secret mission and remains totally oblivious after it causes massive riots and provides an opportunity for genocidal maniac Cam O'Cozy. The second time he tries to have two agents executed for conflicted charges based on second-hand accounts of an event he was not present at, and then casually remarked about his "brilliant" plan to have agents walk out of the Dino Attack Headquarters very slowly towards the mutant dinosaurs. He was even described having a handlebar mustache just to give his character this feel.
- The trope name is often used as an insult for obsessive strategy types in online shooter games like Team Fortress 2. "All hail X! Our fearless armchair general!"
- Brütal Legend has an achievment called "Armchair General". It can only be obtained if the player wins a battle by only giving orders.
- You are this every time you play a strategy game.
Tychus:Okay, armchair general.
- In Starcraft II, Tychus will sometimes insult you for this. He retains this line in Heroes of the Storm.
- In fact, this seems to be a plague for the MOBA genre in general. There's a big chance that in each game you play, there will be one player who likes to take command, even if the commands are mostly useless or could get you dead, and then throw a tantrum when no one follows his orders, and maybe even blame defeat on their teammates because they don't take his Armchair Military strategy.
- Flagg from Medal of Honor (2010) is unworried by avoidable losses of his own and Afghan forces. Driven home by the fact that he appears for the entire game wearing a civilian suit in constrast to all the other soldiers in the game.
- In the Kingdom of Loathing, the Orcish Frat Boy Army is led by Armchair Quarterbacks who shout orders at
the television screenthe faraway battle. Less literally, their superiors are the Orcish equivalent of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant legacy students.
- This trope is actually spoofed more than anything else as you do fight them and they are a little stronger than the soldiers. Furthermore, all of them are led by The Man himself, which you can fight.
- Referenced in Conker's Bad Fur Day at the conclusion of the "It's War" level.
Sergeant: You’re right there. All these fine young men... sent off to do the dying. While those bigwigs... those pen pushers... those guys who never ever... see a single bullet whizz past their heads... we wanna get them down here. Those so-called generals... in their big fancy houses... twenty miles behind enemy lines. Who are they to tell us? Who are they indeed? Look at that! What a sight.
- Alluded to by Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. In an optional Codec call, Snake mentions that whoever is receiving Dolph's speech must have a cozy room with hot coffee (note, Snake had to be in the rain for most of the mission).
- General Lee Oliver of Fallout: New Vegas is disliked by the NCR troopers because he got his position through Nepotism and is more focused on achieving personal fame and possible political clout than anything. He considers Chief Hanlon of the NCR Rangers to be a political rival and so does the exact opposite of whatever Hanlon suggests, even though it was Hanlon's strategy that won the First Battle for Hoover Dam. On top of that, Oliver is so intent on a second, climactic battle at the Dam itself that he seems blind to Legion raids taking place anywhere else.
- In Xenonauts, the splash screen features several high-ranking members of staff, discussing a map. Naturally, they are quite far from the alien war experience.
- Brawl In The Family has this.
- A frequent target of the satirical spEak You're bRanes blog is people who go onto news blogs and smugly lecture on military tactics, warfare and the need for martial solutions to social problems while simultaneously making it clear that they're both lacking in military experience and as far from the fighting as it's possible to get. Fittingly, the tag used to identify examples of these people is 'Armchair Generals'.
- Invoked by Chuck "SF Debris" Sonnenburg when he goes into the more militaristic episodes of Star Trek:
Chuck: ["Chain of Command" review] Now, I don't have any military experience, but I do own a Russian military ushanka hat that I found in a thrift store.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Zuko is thirteen when he attends his first war meeting, and is horrified at this type of military. Protesting gets him banished and a nasty scar.
- The Three Kingdoms had a number of these:
- When forces of the state of Wu arrived to assist Zhuge Dan, a general rebelling against their rival state of Wei, the Wu general Zhu Yi found himself driven back by the Wei forces. The Wu regent Sun Chen arrived and gave Zhu Yi reinforcements, ordering him to break the Wei lines to rescue Zhuge Dan. Zhu Yi was again driven back, and the main Wu supply depot destroyed to boot. Sun Chen ordered another attack, but Zhu Yi protested, pointing out his men were exhausted and they had no food left. Sun Chen angrily had Zhu Yi beaten to death and tried to order another attack, but Wu's morale completely collapsed and he was forced to withdraw.
- Zhuge Liang was a brilliant civil official, but upon being made Prime Minister of Shu he saw himself as a military man. However, while well-read and somewhat experienced (he'd participated in military operations as part of Liu Bei's army), he was stubborn and unable to adapt to the chaotic and fluid nature of a real life battlefield. His plans made sense on paper, but his major flaw was his inability to change them, leading to him sticking to his plans long after the situation on the ground made them impossible. The fact that he was up against talented and experienced generals like Cao Zhen and Sima Yi didn't help.
- Prior to the US-led invasion of Iraq, the clash of ideals between General Eric Shinseki and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was like this. Shinseki's ideas were based on established military doctrine on how to control a country such as Iraq while Rumsfeld's thoughts were pulled out of his ass. Rumsfeld simply didn't understand that defeating Iraq's military was the easy part, controlling Iraq's people enough so Iraq could be rebuilt was the difficult part. Rumsfeld also either fully believed in (or actually helped create, depending on your viewpoint) the Bush Administration's view that a war against Iraq would be quick and easy, much to the annoyance of military men who remembered the last time the United States invaded a country and had to deal with hostile locals.
- General Colin Powell had a run-in with then-Secretary of State Madeline Albright during the planning for intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Powell kept stressing the need for a specific endgame and exit strategy before any military force was applied, having learned this bitter lesson during his combat service in Vietnam. Albright angrily asked him why bother having such a powerful military if it wasn't going to be used. Powell later stated that he had to take a moment to rein in his emotions.
- Quite a large number of self-proclaimed "neo-conservatives" have been named "chickenhawks" for their support of war as a foreign policy tool while having gone to some length to avoid military service themselves. Liberal bloggers have also adopted the "chairborne" terminology, as well as referring to "the 101st Fighting Keyboards" and the like.
- As a lighter example of Interservice Rivalry, the US Air Force is frequently referred to as the "Chair Force" by the uniformed personnel of other branches. Airmen with a self-deprecating sense of humor have also been known to toss the term around themselves. Ironically, in the Air Force, it's only the officers who are supposed to get shot at - unless one is in Combat Control or Pararescue.
- Adolf Hitler is halfway to this trope. While he did have combat experience, he only made it to the rank of Corporal before taking the reins of the largest army in Europe. Hitler also spent much of the war as a messenger, which depending on whom you ask was probably one of the more "rear echelon" positions in the army. While Hitler did come up with some effective strategies, he greatly overestimated his military acumen. The fact that he had made a lucky guess regarding his disposition of forces during the French invasionnote gave him the impression that he was a closet military genius, which would color many of his decisions throughout the remainder of the war.
- Stalin also qualifies, combined with a severe case of General Failure and The Neidermeyer. Fortunately for him and his trops, he was smart enough to acknowledge this (to himself, not to his troops) and eventually (read: after monumental failures that left the western third of the country under nazi occupation and the Wehrmacht marching through the suburbs of Moscow) listened to the advice of his generals, focusing more on the political and strategic objectives of the war and leaving the command of his troops to them. It is quite ironic that he and Hitler seemed to switch roles as the war progressed, with Stalingrad marking the turningpoint for both: since Stalingrad Hitler became the Armchair General Failure, while Stalin stopped meddling with battle plans and allowed his generals to do their job.
- President Dwight D. Eisenhower never actually served in combat. He did face criticism for that from military leaders at the time (including George S. Patton), but he's still one of the most decorated military leaders in modern history and served in the military for over forty years, both before and after his presidency. This is justified, though, in that his position as Supreme Allied Commander required more skill in politics (getting headstrong commanders from numerous countries to work together) than leading troops.
- Douglas MacArthur had been described as such during his command in The Korean War, for never spending a night on Korean soil and issuing his orders from the relative safety of Tokyo. Ironically, during his previous 50 years of service in the US Army, he had been the opposite, the one to risk his life even unnecessarily, as in the scouting mission in Mexico and World War I in Europe. Enough to have impressed Patton in 1918.
- During the New Guinea campaign, he never went to the front lines, which resulted in him repeatedly sacking commanders who he felt were slacking off, when they were actually trying their damndest to get through the worst terrain in the world. On at least two occasions, this resulted in the replacement getting credit for a victory the previous commander had been on the verge of winning.
- US Army slang for this is "Chairborne Ranger," after the 75th Ranger Regiment's nickname of "Airborne Rangers" It's also used as a term for the Soldiers at the Rear, but it's more often used to derisively describe civilians talking about what the military "should" be doing.
- The more common term for Soldiers at the Rear is REMF. The first two letters stand for "Rear Echelon." The last two are a Precision F-Strike.
- In recent years, since around 2008, the favorite term, popular in Infantry and similiar units, is POG, said like "Pogue," person other than grunt.
- It's a bit older than that, though to be honest some POG's actually go deeper than Infantry - like ELINT, who often operate behind enemy lines, with short range antennaes on the back of a humvee.
- Another, much more affectionate, replacement for "REMF" is "FOBbits", soldiers who rarely leave the Forward Operating Base. (The affection has much to do with the fact that physical security of FO Bs was good during the Iraq and Afganistan Wars, thanks in part to FO Bbits being somewhat more on the ball than the REM Fs of the Vietnam War.)
- Bill Mauldin called them Garritroopers — "too far forward to shave, too far back to get shot."
- In Ireland, The Troubles sparked what is sometimes known as "Armchair Republicanism" or "Armchair IRA"; People who live in the Republic who claim to be massive supporters of the IRA's activities in the North. Even to this day with the peace process having quelled the worst elements of the conflict, there are those in the Republic, many of whom have never had family involved let alone set foot in the north, who proclaim that they are diehard Nationalists while never doing a thing about it.