A common threat for police officers who mess up, but not quite enough for a Turn in Your Badge. The threat is usually something like "you'll end up as a crossing guard for this!"
Irish politician Seán Doherty, when caught drinking in a pub after hours, once infamously asked a garda (policeman), "Do you want a pint or a transfer?"note Doherty was Minister of Justice at the time, so he was in a position to make good on his promise.
San Francisco police officers who screw up badly are often said to be sent off "to walk a beat in the Farallons" (a group of rocky islands that is technically part of the city of San Francisco, but 30 miles off the coast and inhabited only by research teams).
In the military (of any country, really), there are always stories about highly undesirable posts and bases where people with problems are sent. Thule in Greenland and Shemya in Alaska are two good ones.
Camillo Cavour (the Italian Bismarck), when he was in the military, proved such a troublemaker that he was reassigned to a remote post.
In 1862, Abraham Lincoln had had enough of Simon Cameron, his corruptnote Prior to appointing Cameron, Lincoln asked Cameron's Senate colleague Thaddeus Stevens what he thought of Cameron; Stevens responded, "I do not believe he would steal a red hot stove." (Lincoln ended up appointing Cameron anyway; the politics of rejecting him were just too complicated). For his part, Cameron once said, "An honest politician is one who, once bought, will stay bought." and incompetent Secretary of War. So he decided to appoint him ambassador to Russia. Lincoln famously quipped regarding this decision, "I know of no further place I could send him."
Earlier, Andrew Jackson had sent James Buchanan to that post for the same reason, allegedly saying, "If we kept a ministry at the North Pole, I would have sent him there." (Bear in mind that in the 1830s, people hadn't reached the North Pole yet; it was as far away as the Moon for people of the time.) This backfired spectacularly: Buchanan was seen as experienced in foreign affairs, and his absence from the country meant that he hadn't pissed anybody off for a while, so he got himself elected President. He then proceeded to do nothing of any importance, other than to dither about the growing tensions that led directly to The American Civil War.
Canadian soldiers make this joke about Cold Lake, Alberta, because it's a small isolated town that gets nasty winters. Even new recruits from Basic Training, who can pick three posting preferences, jokingly claim that no matter what they pick they'll get "Cold Laked".
There is somewhere worse than mainland Alaska in the U.S. Military. An island called Shemya in the Aleutians, a group of islands off the coast of the Alaskan Peninsula. According to legend, the wind never drops below 60 knots, the temperature never rises above -20 C and there's a 10-foot visibility fog 300 days of the year. Primary duty there is clearing the runway of obstructions and running the radar station. Every time someone left, they took a rock with them so someday there would be no more island and no one would ever have to go back. Or so the legend goes.
For some reason Mongolia was a place where communists who were too unorthodox were sent. One such Soviet mandarin was Molotov (yes, as in "cocktail"), who had been one of Stalin's chief lieutenants. After Khrushchev finally won the power struggle between himself and the Molotov-Malenkov-Beria troika, he "promoted" Molotov to ambassador to Mongolia, because it would be somewhere where he could do no damage.
A proverb that originated in the Soviet officer ranks conveys the typically Russian philosophical approach to the problem: "They can't send you further than Kushka [a town in Turkmenistan and the Soviet Union's southernmost point] and they can't give you less than a platoon to command."
The wartime version goes with the frontline instead of Kushka.
Alexander Pushkin was exiled from St. Petersburg to Kishinev (now Chişinău, the capital of Moldova), very far away. Kishinev, which had a large Jewish population, was proverbial in Yiddish slang for "very far away"- if a child was gone for a while, their parents would ask if they had been in Kishinev.
In Denver, Colorado, police officers who screw up, but either not badly enough to get fired (yet) or can't be fired for some reason, get sent to Denver International Airport to patrol. It's said that an officer who goes to the airport is "on their way out".
Apparently the people of Coventry hated the military so much that the threat to "send someone to Coventry" has become an idiom in itself.
Félix Éboué, a trailblazing Afro-Frenchman who achieved high office in France's 1930s colonial administration, up to the status of governor of the valuable Guadeloupe colony, ultimately pissed off the wrong people and was reassigned to what is now Chad, a sparsely populated French colony that was mostly desert and only effectively governed in the South. This backfired when World War II started and, it has been suggested at least partially out of spite, Éboué became the first French colonial governor to throw his support behind Charles De Gaulle's Free French government.
When French Lt. Colonel Georges Picquart uncovered evidence of the framing of fellow officer Alfred Dreyfus for the crime of high treason in 1896, he was hastily reassigned to Tunisia in order to keep the matter quiet. It didn't work.
In Czarist Russia, aristocrats with unfitting opinions were often sent to Siberia permanently. It wasn't all that bad, as they still remained aristocrats and lived in relative comfort (unlike non-aristocrats sent to Siberia, who got to live in prisons), but it did effectively neutralize them politically. A popular euphemism for it was "to be sent to count trees", because the exiled noblemen presumably had nothing better to do.
In some cases, counting trees was almost literal. Russian Prince Pyotr Kropotkin, who was an anarchist philosopher, an army officer, and a trained biologist, developed his perspective on evolution based on the principle of mutual aid for group survival while on a "science mission" in Siberia.
Catholic clergy who somehow manage to seriously anger the Vatican enough might be sent away to remote "contemplative monasteries." More or less the same situation as the Father Ted and The Thorn Birds examples.
Jacques Gaillot provides a "metaphorical" example, in which he wasn't actually exiled, but the intent was the same. Gaillot's liberal views made him unpopular with the Catholic Church hierarchy, and so he was demoted from Bishop of Évreux, France to Bishop of Partenia. Partenia is a See which used to be a major Algerian city—used to because it was buried under the Sahara in the 5th century. (He didn't actually have to go there —Partenia is what they call a "titular diocese," i.e. a place that used to have a substantial population of Catholics and therefore a bishop but no longer has the former and so typically doesn't have the latter.note Most titular dioceses are in the Muslim world, having lost their Catholic populations through conversion rather than death; these are usually given to senior officials of the Roman Curia who need to be bishops but can't be pastoral bishops because of their duties in Rome. The point is that he stayed a bishop but didn't get to have a real diocese.)
As punishment for scandalous conduct, the Roman poet Ovid was exiled by Augustus to Tomis, a port in Black Sea (now modern-day Constanţa, Romania).
Augustus was nothing if not consistent. Several of his descendants whom he considered to be scandalous or embarrassing found themselves exiled to godforsaken flyspecks in the Mediterranean (which for a Roman was very slightly better than the Black Sea). This included his daughter Julia (and his grand-daughter, also called Julia) whom he exiled to the previously uninhabited and minute island of Pandateria, far off the coast of Latium, with no men and no wine (what he found embarrassing in her was that she partied constantly and allegedly had numerous affairs—including liaisons in a temple, according to the gossip of the day).note We should bear in mind that "she had sex in a temple!" was fairly common invective for the Romans (and the Greeks for that matter) against women who were already known to have stronger-than-average sexual appetites; the same thing was later said of Claudius' wife Messalina, although in her case, historians suspect it might have been true.
Notably, Ovid and Julia were exiled at roughly the same time...
General Douglas MacArthur, famous for commanding Allied forces in the South Pacific during WWII and UN forces during the Korean War, was sent to the Philippines as a Brigadier General in 1922 by General Pershing, for becoming involved with a woman that the higher ranking officer had been pursuing. At least, that was the rumor of the time. Conversely, it was also rumored to be either a reward or a punishment for his attempts to reform West Point during his two years as superintendent.
MacArthur was such a Miles Gloriosus that he considered his command of the entire South Pacific Theater to be a reassignment to Antarctica, because he thought he should have been put in charge of the whole war. Fortunately for the whole civilized world General Marshal knew better.
However, this eventually ended up being a Reassignment Backfire due to MacArthur's role in defeating Japan in WWII. The resulting fame gave MacArthur a lot of clout he probably shouldn't have had, which led to his well publicized confrontation with President Truman over the use of nuclear weapons against China during the Korean War. Finally fed up, Truman decided to forget the reassigning and just fired him.
This was one of Josef Stalin's methods of dealing with opponents who didn't warrant execution, assassination or The Gulag. They were appointed ambassadors, removing them from the political scene in the USSR itself.
Georgy Zhukov, the Soviet general who led the Soviet Offensive against Germany in World War II, was reassigned after the war, first to southern Ukraine, then to the Urals, as he was very popular, hence threatening to Stalin.
Zhukov was especially prone to this, having been assigned to the Soviet Far East prior to the war for ideological impurity. This led to a Reassignment Backfire, as the units under Zhukov's command 1) were less impacted by Stalin's purges than the Red Army as a whole, resulting in higher morale and a greater degree of military professionalism and 2) gained valuable experience in skirmishes an undeclared war against the Japanese Kwantung Army along the Manchurian/Mongolian border.
Zhukov wasn't very politically active while he was on service. In the Far East campaign his role was to organize scattered troops anew and terrorize them into discipline — which he did quite well, even if he shot more than needed. Possible "experience" from the operation, however, wasn't visible when the Germans attacked, nor later on the Stalingrad front, so his boss mostly used him the same way — as a big scary whip-master.
The inversion is Apanasenko, who didn't hesitate to shout at Stalin and was kept on Far East... because he was good — so he'd hold the line if the Japanese thought it was their turn to make surprises. An officer working under him later wrote that the Red Army couldn't hope to stop even lesser forces there before Apanasenko came in roaring at everyone and exceeding authority (for which he never suffered more than a rebuke) and got a whole road network built from scratch.
Stalin's original intentions towards Leon Trotsky were of this nature; he was originally sent to the back-end of nowhere, far from the action in Moscow, before eventually being expelled from the country entirely. Unfortunately for Stalin, Trotsky subverted this by being a loud, troublesome pain-in-the-arse dedicated to causing as much grief for Stalin as possible regardless of where he was, through various speeches, writings and general trouble-making (which was partly why he was kicked out of the country in the first place). Unfortunately for Trotsky, Stalin eventually got so fed up with him that he decided on a more permanent solution to the problem, meaning that Trotsky eventually ended up with an icepick in his skull.
Khrushchev used this as his preferred method for disposing of political enemies. After former premier Georgy Malenkov and foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov unsuccessfully plotted to kick him out in 1957, Khrushchev appointed Malenkov as a manager of a hydro-electric plant in the grim industrial city of Ust-Kamenogorsk in a remote area in Kazakhstan, while Molotov was appointed Ambassador to Mongolia. Nikolai Bulganin was also sent to Stavropol when he fell from power.
Alexander Yakovlev, head of the Communist Party's Department of Ideology and Propaganda, published an article criticizing anti-semitism in the USSR and was reassigned to Canada. This may have ended up coming back to bite the Soviets in the end: While there, he had an opportunity to meet and strike up a friendship with a visiting Soviet official, one who was willing to listen to Yakovlev's ideas on reform in the Soviet government... an official by the name of Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev.
In World War II, of all the fronts on which Japan was engaged, Burma was the most hated: the country was too remote from any worthwhile objective to make a difference, the army there was outnumbered and outgunned by its British opponent, and the jungle made it a torturous process to move supplies and reinforcements through even when these were available. A joke among Japanese staff officers in Tokyo made the rounds: "I've upset Tojo, it's Burma for me."
Among the US Armed Forces too—the number one threat was "You foul up one more time, I'll have you sent to CBI!" (China-Burma-India, the US designation for the same theater) for all the reasons stated above.
Similarly, the Eastern Front was this for the European Axis Powers. German, Italian, Romanian, and Hungarian troops hated the Eastern Front, due to the excessively brutal fighting, house to house combat, the weather, and the incredibly cruel way the enemy treated POWs. As for the Western Allies, the Pacific theater was often viewed this way for much the same reasons. It was hot, brutal, full of diseases and bugs, troops were often low on supplies, and the enemy were relatively low tech but fanatically bloodthirsty and dedicated. The Western Front was relatively civilized, and at least there the enemy surrendered and the environment wasn't trying to kill you.
TBS tended to use WCW (the backstage, behind the scenes, staff part) as Antarctica. Most of the people that worked in it were either Kicked Upstairs, put out to pasture, or unsuspecting newbies who had no idea what they were in for. WCW, for reasons that would be too extensive to describe here (although, if you don't feel like looking elsewhere, can be summed up very very loosely as "too many egos and not enough common sense"), was a horrible place to work.
In 1977, a Russian oil tanker ran aground at the Swedish coast. The Swedish Maritime Administration blamed the captain, but an employee discovered that the maps didn't include that particular shallow. He brought it up to his superiors, but when they ignored it, he took the information to the press. End result? He was reassigned from being a cartographer into being a engineer at a relatively remote lighthouse◊.
Although he headed the development for the hugely successful Game Boy, Gunpei Yokoi was given a "window job" after its disastrous follow-up, the Virtual Boy. Without any direct influence in the company, he left to develop the Wonderswan with Bandai.
Apple did this to Steve Jobs in 1985, moving him to an office that was even nicknamed "Siberia," before he actually quit.
Near the end of the Cultural Revolution in China, this was the fate of many of the Red Guards, whose rampages were becoming counterproductive and an embarrassment to the Communist regime. Mao hit upon the idea of the mostly urban, intellectual Red Guard youth being sent out to the remotest regions of China, there to be "reeducated" by the peasantry. The program ended up creating a "lost generation" in China, made up of college-age youth who were essentially exiled internally for doing Mao's will too well. Needless to say, the Red Guards felt betrayed and lost their "revolutionary" ardor after a time.
Historically China has a long tradition of using this trope; central government officials that lost favor were often reassigned to posts in Guangdong, or worse, Hainan, both at the extreme south of the country: high levels of malaria, a subtropical climate that people coming from Northern China couldn't stand, and their task usually involved "securing the Chinese fortress so that the indigenous won't rebel." (It's now very hard to explain why being assigned to what is now the richest place in the country is considered a punishment.)
"Being exiled to Xiamen Island" was considered the epitome of being sent to a far away place of much hardship during Tang and Sung Dynasties. Now, Xiamen is one of the richest cities of China.
The former Edward VIII of Great Britain, aka the Duke of Windsor, had lived in France at the start of World War II, after which he eventually moved to Spain and Portugal. During this time, fears grew that he was at best a defeatist whose doom-and-gloom proclamations would sap morale, and at worst a Nazi sympathizer and potential traitor. So Churchill appointed him governor of the Bahamas, which was pretty much a non-job and far away from everything...
The ruling Kim dynasty of North Korea has a history of sending sons not in the line of succession out of the country on diplomatic missions, to prevent a power struggle from arising.
After the Boshin War that paved the way for Meiji Restoration, the Aizu domain—best known for being the The Shinsengumi's direct leaders—were displaced to Tonami "Just south of the Big Dipper" Domain, which occupied the eastern half of today's Aomori Prefecture. There's a good reason why that nickname stood — it's the northernmost point of Honshu, relatively underdeveloped compared to the rest of Japan to this day, and at the timenote Hokkaido was not yet considered an integral part of Japan it was as far away from the centers of Imperial power and influence as you could get without actually leaving the country.
It was in the arctic, not Antarctica, but being sent to a DEW line station surely felt like this.
For the Union, Irvin Mc Dowell started the war commanding at First Bull Run, was demoted to corps command, then wound up in the Department of the Pacific, hundreds of miles from any fighting. John Pope lost the Battle of Second Bull Run and spent the rest of the war fighting Indians in Minnesota. Nathaniel Banks moved from the Virginia theater to Louisiana, where he still managed to botch the Red River Campaign. In many cases, these generals were well-connected politically and couldn't be outright fired.
The Confederacy typically reassigned failed generals to the Trans-Mississippi theater, encompassing Arkansas, Louisiana and Eastern Texas. While some good generals like Richard Taylor and Edmund Kirby-Smith emerged from this theater, most were washouts like Sterling Price (failed invasion of Missouri), Earl Van Dorn (loser at Pea Ridge and Second Corinth, demoted to cavalry command), Theophilus Holmes (supremely incompetent division commander under Robert E. Lee) and Henry Sibley (failed invasion of New Mexico).