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Armchair Military

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Field Marshal Haig playing with his toys. Err, planning a new campaign.

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... uh, well, chairs. This shouldn't be a surprise. There are two interpretations:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

The gallant idea of a general who valiantly leads his troops from the front line is something that did happen in the past. In ancient and tribal societies, the best fighters were the ones who became commanders, and even later on, soldiers were frequently expected to buy their own gear, meaning commanders were usually far better-equipped than their infantry. Also, in the days before professional soldiers were a thing, part of the job of a commander was to inspire their forces to fight. If applied to modern battlefields, however, this would definitely be a case of Hollywood Tactics. If the tactics expert who leads your army dies in the first volley, the chances are you're going to lose. And even if he doesn't die, fighting with the troops is going to make it much harder for him to tell what's going on or relay orders.

Note that Armchair Admiral is usually an averted trope. Admirals very often work on the warships, and capital ships are floating command centers. They thus share the same dangers as do any sailors, both combat-related and perils of nature. Other admirals instead work at naval headquarters on land.

If they are merely incompetent anyhow, compare General Failure. If the commander isn't really doing much of anything, including giving orders, and just sits there waiting for the opposition to take him on directly, he's probably Orcus on His Throne.

Compare Miles Gloriosus. A common subversion to a character who first appears to be an Officer and a Gentleman. The YouTube War Expert is a specific online variant. The opposite of Risking the King and Frontline General.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • 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. As said best in Attack on Titan Abridged
  • The army of Midland in Berserk is commanded by a totally clueless ring of pompous noblemen. They spend more time arguing over who should get the "honor" of heading campaigns than they do discussing actual viable strategies. This allows Griffith to step in and gain considerable social status through, well, actual military merit.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Averted for the Germa Kingdom’s military in One Piece. Not only do the royal Vinsmokes command their armies, but they directly participate in their battles as well.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Rebuild World: The company of Private Military Contractors known as Drankam is rife with Right Hand Versus Left Hand infighting between two factions: Young hunters backed by the civilian bureaucrats, and the old guard veterans. The bureaucrats led by Mizuha, see the young hunters as chances to create a Propaganda Hero cadre (especially in The Rival Katsuya), and thus redistribute the rewards from the veterans to the young members. The bureaucrats constantly praise and reward young hunters despite their failures, because they’re what’s marketable. This means Drankam becomes filled with Boisterous Weakling and Leeroy Jenkins young hunters, and since nobody is punishing Katsuya’s poor command, their Red Shirt Army dying in droves just settles Katsuya with more and more Survivor Guilt until it nearly breaks him, making Katsuya vulnerable to Sheryl’s Honey Trap ultimately (indirectly) causing his undoing.
  • This is Tanya's goal in The Saga of Tanya the Evil, wanting to get out of the front lines and live in the safest place one can be during the war. However, through a mixture of miscommunications, her awesome skills, and God screwing with her, she remains in the front line.
  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • Most of Garth Ennis' works use this trope, especially in the World War II 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.
  • 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.
  • Tintin: In The Broken Ear, Tintin is made colonel and 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 3,483 colonels for 27 corporals, and suggests appointing a new corporal instead, Alcazar agrees... and demotes that 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.

    Fan Works 
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • Discussed in Mythos Effect. Desolas Arterius at one point bitterly mutters that Last Stands always look admirable to those who don't have to carry them out. Assumptions like those locked the Turians in a dangerous position with no way of striking back at the New Earth Federation while steadily losing after a promising start.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Prime Minister Churbull has the brilliant idea to open a new front in the war against the Soviet Union equivalent in A Young Woman's Political Record - by raising a local army in the alternate India, very, very far away from Albion, and attacking north, establishing supply lines across some of the most treacherous and dangerous terrain in the world. His idiotic plan instead triggers a Communist rebellion.

  • Some movies show generals in British High Command during World War II as heartless armchair generals.
    • The generals are even worse in World War I films, such as Gallipoli and Paths of Glory. Paths of Glory especially focuses the disconnect that existed between the High Command and the men in the trenches in World War One, specifically among the French.
  • 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.
  • Army: Tomohiko and all his other civilian buddies, barking about how Japan has to avenge itself, how Shintaro needs to become a soldier, etc. In one particularly absurd scene Tomohiko and his friend get into a heated argument about whether or not Japan really needed the "divine wind"—aka "kamikaze"—to escape being conquered by the Mongol Empire.
  • In Das Boot, the Weser officers have clearly been away from the fighting for some time, though they clearly have no idea what they're asking for when lamenting that they're on board a U-boat.
  • Downfall (2004) depicts Adolf Hitler as this in the final days of the war, commanding divisions on his map which effectively no longer exist.
  • 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.
  • According to Into the Storm (2009), Winston Churchill thought this of Eisenhower.
  • The Last Castle provides a very good example of the classic armchair general, the warden of a military prison played by James Gandolfini, who is envious of one of his prisoners (played by Robert Redford) who has actually served in combat.
  • 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.
  • Wonder Woman (2017) displays a whole cabinet of them in and around Parliament, none too concerned about letting the war slog on for another few weeks while the armistice is negotiated. Diana is appalled, calling them cowards for not leading their men from the front and turning down a potential war-winning strike against Dr. Poison and General Ludendorff. Hanging back also allows them to be easily manipulated by Ares, who wants the war to drag on and destroy humanity.

  • 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.
  • In Always Coming Home, the Dayao Glorious Leader never left his palace, yet everyone was expected to follow his orders without questions, including in military campaigns. It works about as well as it sounds.
  • 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.
  • The scene from All Quiet on the Western Front mentioned under Film is taken directly from the novel.
  • Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!): any time 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 types than the PDF.
  • 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".
  • 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.
    • General Dravere in First and Only is another example, written as deliberately unsympathetic to further the novel's World War I aesthetic. At one point, at a staff meeting at his chateau, he has a giant can of coffee thrown away because it has gotten slightly lukewarm, while his soldiers thirst and starve in the trenches.
  • 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".
  • 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.
    • Monstrous Regiment features Lieutenant Blouse, who is a subversion. He has no practical military experience, and tries to do things by the book even when it would be stupid to do so. However, to the surprise of several dismissive troops, he is sincerely eager to participate directly in combat and is something very close to A Father to His Men (well... not "men", per se).
    • 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 Omega in Winged Hussars is a famed commander from a rarely seen species that practically invented the modern Space Navy, and wrote many of the tactical manuals that nearly every navy uses. The Hussars under the command of Alexis Cromwell ignore the manual and kill him by throwing an asteroid jury-rigged with sensor spoofing packages into his flagship at a measurable fraction of the speed of light. Afterwards, exposition reveals that Admiral Omega learned everything secondhand and had never actually fought a battle before.
  • In HMS Leviathan, a novel about the peacetime Royal Navy, the seagoing officers who have active commands note the bi-annual promotion list is segregated between the "Wet List" note  and the "Dry List".note . They are not surprised the greater part of recognition and advancement goes to officers on the Dry List, and gloomily speculate this is the way the Navy is going, with the inactive officers on shore gaining more and more power and influence.
  • Admiral James Cutter in Clear and Present Danger is depicted this way.
  • The British secretary of state Lord Chesterfield also criticized those in the Letters to His Son: " that pedant talked, who was so kind as to instruct Hannibal in the art of war." (letter 93)
  • In Okuyyuki, the hero falls afoul of a Pentagon general who cares more about scoring points with his politically-correct superiors than about rewarding old-school heroism.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Briefly discussed in Republic Commando: Order 66. Clone commandos Corr and Niner discuss the placement of the power packs on their DC-17m Swiss-Army Weapons, Corr noting that it jutting out of the left side of the gun prevents them from holstering it on the right and wondering who thought that was a good idea. Niner comes to the conclusion that it was designed that way to allow for faster reloads, going by the logic of someone who has and will never actually carry and fire one.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 1632:
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.”
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Danish politicians in Eighteen Sixty Four are portrayed as this, especially the semi-insane, obese Prime Minister D.G. Monrad, who speaks continuously of the Danish People's "will to fight," while continuously ordering the horrendously outnumbered and outgunned Danish conscript army to stand against the overwhelming forces of Imperial Germany. He even rapturously applauds the PTSD-induced War Is Hell stories of his son, making him both this trope and something of a Fat Bastard .
  • The Army Game: Brigadier Stubbs, who is Captain Pockett's superior officer, is a pompous 'Colonel Blimp' type who appears to have been in the military since World War One. Fortunately, commanding the Surplus Ordnance Department at Nether Hopping, Staffordshire, it is unlikely he will ever have to send men into battle.
  • In the Babylon 5 episode "And Now for a Word", Sheridan refers to armchair quarterbacking from the Senate.
  • 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 towards 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, as evidenced from this quote after a successful push forward in "Private Plane".
      Melchett: Erm, what's the actual scale of this map, Darling?
      Darling: Er, 1:1, Sir.
      Melchett: Come again?
      Darling: Er, the map is actually life-size, Sir. It's superbly detailed. Look, look, there's a little worm.
      Melchett: Oh, yes. So the actual amount of land retaken is?
      [Darling whips out a tape measure and measures the table.]
      Darling: Excuse me, Sir. Seventeen square feet, Sir.
      Melchett: Excellent. So you see, young Blackadder didn't die horribly in vain after all!
    • The page image comes from the finale "Goodbyeee". After Blackadder's latest plan to get away from the front (by feigning insanity) fails, he decides to call in a favor from Field Marshal Haig, the British Commander-in-Chief, for saving his life years ago. Haig is shown at his headquarters to be playing with toy soldiers and discarding them with a dustpan, demonstrating zero concern for the soldiers under his command. The method he proposes for Blackadder to be relieved is the same one he tried at the start of the episode.
  • The Watcher's Council in 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.
  • As a former soldier forced by commanders to cross his Moral Event Horizon, Danny Pink of Doctor Who considers officers in general 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. If they didn't openly antagonize each other as rival love interests, they could've actually come to understand each other. In his belief that the Doctor doesn't get involved, fewer things could be farther from the truth. In regard to if the Doctor actually cares about people, the Doctor spends the entire season trying to answer this to himself. In regard to how the Doctor pushes people too far, that actually is something he has been called out on before, by his companions' families, some companions, and by Word of God in the following season.
  • Game of Thrones: In "Battle of the Bastards", Ramsay hangs back as his men do all the fighting, needlessly sacrificing the lives of his soldiers in the crossfire of his archers. This puts him at odds with both his Good Counterpart, Jon, and his brute, Smalljon Umber, who both fight on the frontline, as well as Jon's follower, Davos, who explicitly stops his men from firing arrows on their own men. Later, as soon as the battle goes against him, Ramsay beats a hasty retreat to Winterfell.
  • Admiral Lord Hood in Horatio Hornblower. He's the one who represents the Admiralty, sends Captain Pellew's Indefatigable and three other ships to sail to France, but he himself stays in London. He does not abort the mission when a copy of General Charette's plan gets stolen, probably by spies, and very likely falls to enemy hands. He also insists that General Charette should not be informed about the incident. Pellew is disgusted that men (and among those are his own men for whose lives he feels responsible) are sent to die in a doomed mission. The most he does in response is to order Pellew to stay on post in case something goes wrong (Which Pellew notes means that there is one ship being left behind to evacuate four ship loads of soldiers, so if the mission fails, it is expected to suffer a minimum of 75% casualties).
  • Anyone perceived as armchair military by M*A*S*H character Hawkeye was in for an interesting time.
  • Courtney Massengale from Once An Eagle.
  • Arnold Rimmer from Red Dwarf uses this trope to try and justify his claim that he is a potential military prodigy despite his tendency of cowering in a corner whenever a fight happens.
    Generals don't smash chairs over people's heads. They don't get Newcastle Brown bottles, stick them in your face and say, "Stitch that, Jimmy." Generals are in the nice, white tent on the hill, sipping Sancerre, directing the battle. They're men of honour.
  • Rome depicts these as having been the downfall of Pompey and his army in the civil war with Caesar. Pompey's forces significantly outnumbered Caesar's and had them stuck in a siege, which left Caesar's forces falling to disease, starvation, and desertion while Pompey's better supplied men ate and carried on with relative comfort. Pompey was more than happy to keep up The Siege and let Caesar's force continue falling apart little by little (especially since Caesar's army was made up of hardened veterans while Pompey's were inexperienced soldiers), but the Roman Senators with Pompey persuaded him to defeat Caesar in battle instead, to make a statement about Caesar's treason and give the Republic a dramatic victory. Abandoning Pompey's Boring, but Practical methods would be a fatal mistake, as Caesar's more experienced and absolutely desperate soldiers (who might face mass execution if they lost), ripped through Pompey's forces in open battle, leaving Caesar the victor and allowing him to gain nearly total power in Rome.
  • 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 Stargate: 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.
  • In Star Trek, almost anybody in Starfleet Command has been away from the sharp end for far too long.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • In "The Maquis, Part II", 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.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "Peak Performance", the ship is visited by a master strategist named Kolrami who is unbeatable in terms of theory and games, but once the ship suddenly finds itself in a real battle, his only solution is to cut and run. Picard, the seasoned captain, is the one who comes up with a gambit to win the day. Proud Warrior Race Guy Worf spots the problem right at the beginning of the episode; since Kolrami's people are so respected as strategists that they haven't been involved in actual combat for thousands of years; they're just coasting on reputation.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • The Roger Waters song "The Bravery of Being Out of Range" is about this in addition to lambasting the news media for treating war as entertainment.

  • 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Battletech, there are some armchair generals in some of the Inner Sphere Great House militaries, but the most badly-affected faction is the Lyran Commonwealth, as the meme of the Lyran Social General attests to. A particularly infamous thing was the existence of paper armies which tended to have much fewer troops than was listed on paper.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Planetary Defense Forces are generally held in contempt by the Guard, since they're usually made up of whoever the Guard didn't feel was worth training, the closest thing to elite forces are palace guards who can put down a peasant revolt and not much else, and their leaders are the kind of inbred aristocrats who couldn't devise an exit strategy out of a paper bag.
    • Zigzagged in regard to the Imperial Guard. While there's no shortage of General Failures, the troopers don't actually expect the top brass to join them on the frontline given the kind of monsters, daemons, aliens and horrible things with teeth they go up against on a daily basis.
    • And then you have Commander Kubrik Chenkov, whose only strategy is to throw more men at the enemy without armor or artillery support, whether the goal is to take a fortress or clear a minefield. This somehow succeeds despite losses that are horrifically high for the Imperial Guard and gets Chenkov another medal for every gruesome victory. To his credit, Chenkov does not simply order a few thousand more recruits and call it a day- he's right there on the field to participate in killing the Emperor's enemies and "encourage" his troopers (it's said that his bolt pistol has felled more cowards than it has heretics).
    • While orks and Chaos commanders are pretty much always found on the battlefield due to their Asskicking Leads to Leadership and Klingon Promotion tendencies, some of them are smart enough to delegate to their underlings (said underlings should take care not to get too successful).
    • The T'au play with this somewhat. The only way a soldier can even apply to retire to the rear echelons is to have served an exemplary four years at Shas'o rank. Promotions can only be earned based on field merits, meaning meaning every T'au military instructor and advisor has spent literally half their life on the front lines in a variety of battlesuits and roles; any given Coalition's Fire-caste representative knows exactly what they're signing the men up for. On the other hand, while the ruling Etheral caste (who sometimes deploy to the field in a leadership capacity but rarely engage the enemy directly) do genuinely listen to the advice of Caste representatives, they have been known to make proclamations somewhat bolder than the advising Coalition suggested, typically leading to some quiet eye-rolling and rapid brainstorming on how to meet the new quotas.

  • The Modern Major General in The Pirates of Penzance is so educated that he knows everything about almost everything and can perform several outright impossible feats like humming a fugue. To the sole exclusion of combat, a topic which he is less familiar with than “a novice in a nunnery,” leaving him unable to “tell at sight a Mauser rifle from a javelin.”

    Video Games 
  • You are this every time you play a strategy game.
    • In Starcraft II, Tychus will sometimes insult you for this. He retains this line in Heroes of the Storm.
      Tychus: Okay, armchair general.
    • 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 strategy.
  • Brütal Legend has an achievment called "Armchair General". It can only be obtained if the player wins a battle by only giving orders.
  • 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.
  • Fallout: New Vegas:
    • General Lee Oliver 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.
    • When Father Elijah was Elder of the local Brotherhood of Steel chapter, he was every bit this; he insisted on trying to hold HELIOS One against the NCR despite the fact that they were outnumbered and dying in droves, and the only reason they survived at all was because they pulled a coup and removed him from leadership. Many cite the reason for his failure as having been a Scribe (scientist) before becoming an Elder, whereas most Elders are chosen from the ranks of Paladins (soldiers with considerable front-line experience). However, when you encounter him at the Sierra Madre, it becomes clear that the problem runs much deeper; Elijah is in fact a complete sociopath who treats people as though they are machines, or resources, that can be used and discarded.
  • In Grey Goo (2015), the human race spent ages searching the galaxy for alien life (and they invented the Grey Goo to help them in their search) only to find nothing. So they retreated back to Earth, mothballed all their autonomous war drones and turned to inward perfection for generations. When a race of battle-hardened alien refugees with gritty war machines turn up along with the Goo — now out-of-control Starfish Aliens), humanity has no choice but to dust off their old machines and go back to war. The problem is, anyone who knew how to actually wage war died centuries ago and all that exists now is purely academic knowledge.
  • General Reza Zaydan in Hitman (2016) is stated to lack any actual combat experience and earned his position through a mixture of wealth and nepotism. Like all targets, if 47 confronts him openly, he won't fight back and instead insults and threatens him.
  • KanColle oddly plays "Armchair Admiral" straight, but with justification, since conventional battleships are useless against the humanoid-looking forces of the Abyssal Fleet, so all the humans' battleships look like people (and are all-female because all ships are female, naturally) carrying various military equipment instead to match their tactical capabilities. In other words, there's literally no room for the Admirals during battles, so they have to stay at the base and give orders via radio.
  • In the Kingdom of Loathing, the Orcish Frat Boy Army is led by Armchair Quarterbacks who shout orders at the television screen the 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.
  • In Mass Effect 3, we come across an asari strategist Polgara T’Sousa playing a version of chess with spacecraft and planets instead of medieval era positions. T’Sousa is the reigning champion of the game and claims to be “living comfortably, teaching asari maidens tactics and strategy”. She is the Sitcom Archnemesis of Samantha Traynor, your Comm Specialist, and as such, trash talks her about not having enough time to practice at the game, serving onboard your frigate. One way you can trash talk T’Sousa right back is to praise Traynor’s actual contributions to the Reaper War with her Intel analysis. Another way is to needle T’Sousa about how useless all those asari strategies were, seeing as how they capitulated really fast to the Reapers even with a whole lot of advanced warning. Either way allows Traynor to deal a humiliating loss to T’Sousa.
  • 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.
  • Alluded to in the Tanker chapter of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. In an optional Codec call, Otacon notes that a broadcast of the Metal Gear in the tanker's hold is being sent out to another location via satellite. Snake - who spends so much of the level out in the rain and cold that he's capable of catching a cold - grumbles that whoever is receiving the broadcast must have a cozy room with a limitless supply of hot coffee.
  • Red Alert 3: Subverted when it come to Vindicator bombers. While the Allies' air forces get the usual Interservice Rivalry from ground troops, it's specifically mentioned that Vindicators are exempt from this, partly because they're deployed on the front lines and so share the same lack of creature comforts as other soldiers, and partly because many of them owe their lives to a Vindicator taking out an enemy threatening them with a pinpoint bombing run.
  • In Star Trek: Elite Force II, one such admiral with huge bushy eyebrows wants to disband the Hazard Team, claiming that the "civilized" Federation has no need of such a clearly military team and that the paramilitary Starfleet can handle whatever minor challenger may come. Keep in mind that this is happening after the devastating Dominion War, where more dedicated special forces squads like the Hazard Team would have been very useful. Picard promptly barges into the admiral's office and browbeats (pun intended) him into keeping the Hazard Team in operation and has them reassigned to the Enterprise-E. When the admiral tries to once again claim that the Federation doesn't need them, Picard comes back and asks the admiral point-blank if he's ever been to the frontier, which is very much more dangerous than that admiral's cushy office.
  • Generals in Stellaris may have the "Armchair Commander" trait, which confers a slight penalty to damage and morale to armies under their command, since they're leading from the rear - possibly even from orbit, while their troops fight planetside.
  • 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!"
  • Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth: Most military generals and emperors in the series will command from the front lines, and even fight at the head of their formations. Pillar General Raikou of Yamato is one of the few exceptions. It's noted that he has almost no combat ability himself, but he's a genius tactician whose strategies have lead Yamato's armies to victory time and time again, so he doesn't get too much grief for this.
  • WarGames Defcon 1, being a Real-Time Strategy game, have the player spending the entire game controlling one of their units to destroy enemy bases while defending their own. They get a Game Over if they run out of available units.
  • 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.

    Web Comics 
  • During The King in Yellow arc of Legostar Galactica, the Alliance Senate prove themselves to be a bunch of these when they'd rather pursue the war with the Hoff despite A. The far greater existential threat to the entire universe that the King in Yellow poses and B. Captain Smith providing evidence that the Alliance-Hoff War was orchestrated by the King's forces for exactly this type of distraction. Fortunately for Bob and his crew, Admiral Graves and President Weyland are Reasonable Authority Figures willing to give him some support; Graves assigns several Alliance Navy ships including his own personal flagship to Captain Smith's taskforce, and Weyland refuses to take any steps to stop them in the face of the Senate's cries for their removal.

    Web Original 
  • Brawl in the Family compares the Fire Emblem tactican, who values the life of every unit, to the Advance Wars tactician, who "can always buy more troops."
  • 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.
    Chuck: ["Siege of AR-558" review] The closest thing I have to tactical training is beating Mass Effect 2 on Insanity.

    Western Animation 
  • 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. In Season 3, he's accepted back from his banishment and his father requests his presence for another one. There, he finds out these same guys and his father are all psychopaths who are obsessed with power and glory at the price of genocide, and decides he can't take it anymore.
  • Zapp Brannigan in Futurama is fond of this command style. In one of the films, he commanded his fleet as they engaged in an orbital space battle through the window of an Applebee's.

    Real Life 
  • The popular image of World War I (in the English-speaking world, at least) has been thoroughly solidified as this trope: clueless upper class twits sending millions of men to their deaths, using Napoleonic tactics against machine guns, all whilst sitting out the war in luxurious chateaus miles behind the frontlines. While there is some truth to this, legitimate criticism of military leadership tends to get drowned out by the "lions led by donkeys" caricature above. Actual historians tend to have more sober and professional assessments.
  • 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.
  • Another famous case from China is Zhao Kuo. His family, after failing to convince the king of Zhao of his incompetence, made the king promise he would not punish them should the man fail, and the king kept his word... even after the guy's inexperience cost him half a million men in a crushing defeat inflicted by the state of Qin. It is also from Zhao's story whereby the Chinese idiom for this trope (纸上谈兵 "zhi shang tan bing", literally "talking about warfare on paper") came about.
  • 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 Madeleine 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 have also been known to toss the term around themselves, typically from pilots of regular manned aircraft to pilots of UAVs. 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 was 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. 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.
    • Hermann Göring was also halfway to this. He had been a fighter pilot during World War I and racked up some impressive victories. After being named Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, however, he made a number of increasingly bad decisions: halting the German Army so that the Luftwaffe could finish off the British Expeditionary Force, switching from bombing RAF installations to targeting British cities, and having the Luftwaffe supply the Sixth Army by air so they didn't have to withdraw from Stalingrad. These decisions, much like Hitler's, played a huge role in Germany's ultimate defeat.
  • Stalin also qualified, combined with a severe case of General Failure. Fortunately for him and his troops, he was smart enough to acknowledge this (to himself, not to his troops) and eventually (after the disastrous loss of millions of soldiers) listened to the advice of his generals, and focused more on the political and strategic objectives of the war while leaving tactical decisions to them. Not that this stopped him from being proclaimed "generalissimo" and the "military genius" who won the war anyway.
    • In an interesting turn of events, he and Hitler seemed to switch roles as the war progressed, with Stalingrad marking the turning point for both: after Stalingrad, Hitler became more involved in tactical decisions which only led to further defeats, while Stalin stopped meddling with battle plans and allowed his generals to do their jobs.
  • 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.
  • While this wasn't really the case in World War II (aside from one exception below), Douglas MacArthur has 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. He did however directly sail to Inchon on his flagship and directed the landing from there. 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 - that is, Rear Echelon Mother Fucker.
    • In recent years, since around 2008, the favorite term, popular in Infantry and similiar units, is POG, said like "Pogue," for "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 FOBs was good during the Iraq and Afganistan Wars, thanks in part to FOBbits being somewhat more on the ball than the REMFs 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.
    • Worse yet, there are a fair number of Americans (of Irish descent or otherwise) who loudly proclaim their support for the IRA or PIRA from across the ocean, often despite never having set foot in Ireland- much less taken actual action of any kind.
  • The same could fairly be said for a lot of people from all over the world who, be it for for political, religious, other, or any combination of these reasons, loudly demand Israel takes either the most draconian hardest line possible in settling its differences with the neighbours, especially the Palestinians, or stand down and completely roll over rather than attempt any form of aggression or defense. Despite these folks living up to 7,000 miles away, having never even visited the Middle East, and in most cases don't even understand the underlying factors in these conflicts, there's always someone with an internet connection and a $13 coffee in hand who thinks they can solve a 1,400 year old conflict with a Reddit post.
  • The rise of the Internet has led to a veritable explosion in the second type by lowering the cost of entry and allowing every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a keyboard and Internet connection to voice their opinion.
    • Bizarrely enough, this actually has yielded some positive results in the war against terror. Amateur sleuths on 4chan got together, analysed propaganda videos taken by Islamist terrorists and determined the location of troops of the Islamic State terror organisation by comparing the video footage with pictures on Google Maps, then sent the information to the Russian military via a savvy junior officer, who convinced his superiors of its validity. They promptly decided to bomb the sites to oblivion. This kind of thing has been confirmed to have happened at least twice.
      • Russia ended up on the receiving end when the internet was used to organize vast grassroots support to Ukraine and in some cases Russian officers and troop concentrations were reported by internet sleuths and promptly bombed.
  • The French Armée de l'Air uses the term "aterrissage de colonel" ("colonel's landing") to describe a plane bouncing five times on the runway before finally staying on the ground, with variations in rank proportionate to the number of bounces.


Video Example(s):


Deus, Olga, Kalrow and Sergei

While Asura, Yasha, Wyzen and Augus fight in the frontlines, Deus, Olga, Kalrow and Sergei lead from their ships.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / ArmchairMilitary

Media sources: