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General Failure

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"Only he could have permitted the First Afghan War and let it develop to such a ruinous defeat. It was not easy: he started with a good army, a secure position, some excellent officers, a disorganized enemy, and repeated opportunities to save the situation. But Elphy, with the touch of true genius, swept aside these obstacles with unerring precision, and out of order wrought complete chaos. We shall not, with luck, look upon his like again."
Harry Paget Flashman, regarding General William Elphinstone, Flashman

They are utterly ruthless, unfettered, and fanatically dedicated to the destruction of their enemies. Whether fighting for good or evil, they have no qualms with employing the cruelest, foulest, most abominable strategems and minions — using every means both fair and foul in the pursuit of their goals. Their limitless ambition and cunning make them the very epitome of martial brilliance...

...or at least they would if they weren't also a gibbering moron who puts their soldiers at risk.

For some reason, villainous organizations which have no problem with kidnapping, blackmailing, threatening the destruction of the world, or even kicking puppies, somehow tolerate having an idiotic leader whose inept schemes for world domination are always foiled, often because of the utterly bizarre plans and implementation that General Failure himself is responsible for. Oh, they might bitch and moan about the dumb ideas, but it's not like they'll ever do anything about it.

Occasionally, The Watson, the Meta Guy, or other characters will question the Big Bad's ludicrous schemes, but since they're not in charge, that will be it. Very often The Starscream is the only one who opposes the leader at all, making him look like the Only Sane Man on their side.

Common phrases of the General usually include "I wrote the manual on military tactic X," or "This reminds me of the time we fought enemy X in an improbable location, what a tale that is!"

General Failure may have started out as a competent commander in a position of less importance, and his success led to him being promoted beyond his capabilities. If this is the case, then it's a villainous example of The Peter Principle. If he started out as an incompetent mook or private, you can expect his rise to be an improbable series of Kicked Upstairs, Uriah Gambit, and Promoted to Scapegoat that never deliver on the bad ending or being the only living replacement left when his superiors keep dying.

Most of the time the leader is also a Bad Boss, which can lead to We Have Reserves and possibly Mook Depletion. One wonders sometimes if the good guys are secretly making sure the doofus on top stays there. General Failure is essentially the personification of Failure Is the Only Option, and is the eventual destination of severe Villain Decay. He often bears similarities to The Neidermeyer, but on a much higher scale. Compare Armchair Military, Miles Gloriosus, Modern Major General, Lord Error-Prone. Pointy-Haired Boss is a similar non-military trope.

Contrast Four-Star Badass, General Ripper, Colonel Badass, Sergeant Rock, and Surrounded by Idiots.

This trope does not happen too much in Real Life. Really incompetent officers usually never even graduate from the military academy: incompetent officers mostly don't tend to get promoted past Captain (Lieutenant in the Navy) level. Most real-life officers appearing as General Failures are simply unlucky ones (and conversely, many military "geniuses" just got lucky and afterwards announced I Meant to Do That).

Granted, in the mid-19th Century and prior, there was (more room for) nepotism, and military ranks and jobs had to be bought and were only available to people of the right class/social standing. But even then, there were limits to how much incompetence a military establishment would tolerate before either you got demoted, or some of the people dying under your command saw to it you got hit by a stray bullet, or you and your remaining troops were captured by a foe with more competent leaders.

This isn't to say incompetence doesn't exist within Real Life militaries, of course. It's just that usually, it can't be pinned down to one person. More often than not, bad decisions are made by several people due to a combination of factors involving miscommunication between personnel, an outdated and hopelessly bloated Vast Bureaucracy, a culture and power structure that encourages higher ranking individuals to interfere in the work of lower ranking personnel despite having no expertise in their field (think Executive Meddling, but for armies instead of TV Networks), and to top it all off, good old groupthink. In other words, it's not a leadership problem, it's a structural problem.

Real-life General Failures may have existed and were quite notorious, but they alone were only responsible for a fraction of military blunders throughout history.

Still, No Real Life Examples, Please!


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Keith Shadis from Attack on Titan views himself as this, being the previous commander of the Survey Corps before Erwin Smith succeeded him in the post. Returning home to Shiganshina from yet another costly expedition, he comes before the mother of a soldier who died under his command, suffering Heroic BSoD when he admits to the grieving woman and all those around him that his and the sacrifice of everyone before him has been entirely senseless and that nothing has been gained in their forays into the Titan-infested lands beyond the Walls.
  • Berserk:
    • Lord Gennon outnumbered his enemy six to one at the battle of Doldrey and had both a massive borderline-unassailable fortress and one of the best knightly orders in the Empire under his command. Had he simply stepped back, stayed behind the walls, and let his knights do their work, the battle would have been an easy victory. Instead, he decides to lead out most of the army in a disorganized sortie to capture the enemy commander (whom he was in love with), and doesn't even bother to close the fortress doors behind them.
    • Wyald may be the head of one of the most successful knightly orders in his nation, but he's little more than a psychotic Blood Knight whose list of tactics begins and ends with "charge in and kill everything." He actually tends to make things harder for himself, such as pausing in his pursuit of a valuable target to butcher a town for fun. The only reason his troops follow him is that he's made it clear that nothing the enemy can do equals what he'll do if they try running, and even then, he'll frequently get them killed just for the hell of it. As he's a One-Man Army with Super-Strength and a giant demon form, he sees tactics as completely unnecessary.
  • Subverted in Dragon Ball with the Red Ribbon Army. The leader, Commander Red, has been hunting for the Dragon Balls for months and his men have been routinely slaughtered by Goku. He wants the Dragon Balls so he can wish to become taller. However, his subordinates don't know that and when his second in command, Adjutant Black, finds out (he assumed they were going to wish for world domination) he executes Red in disgust and becomes leader of the Black Ribbon Army.
  • Justified in Fullmetal Alchemist. The Big Bad wants blood to create a giant transmutation circle, so he intentionally has the ruler of Amestris put idiots as Generals since they are easy to control, and their incompetence will not only kill the enemy but their own men as well. When they tried to get Olivier Armstrong to join their inner circle, let's just say things got ugly... for the General Numbnuts.
  • Gundam:
    • Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam: If you want an Absolute Xenophobe of a General Ripper, Colonel Bosque Ohm of the Titans is your man. If you want a military leader who actually accomplishes anything other than gassing colony after colony of innocent civilians... best look elsewhere. This guy is so hellbent on gassing Spacenoids that he literally assigns a colony gassing operation as the very first mission for a new defector from the AEUG. Luckily for him said defector doesn't have much moral fiber and goes through with the colony gassing. Unsurprisingly, Dark Messiah Paptimus Scirocco doesn't think much of him, and even resident Psycho for Hire Yazan Gable doesn't hesitate to shoot him down on Scirocco's orders.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Quinze of the White Fang isn't completely evil (unlike most other Gundam examples on this list), but he still needs to drop to his knees and thank the deity of his choice every day that Milliardo Peacecraft chose to join up with him, as battles never seem to work out for his group when he's the one calling the shots (even in a prequel manga!). Interestingly, it is implied he may be aware of this and sought out Milliardo for this very reason.
    • Two examples from Gundam SEED Destiny:
      • Lord Djibril, the leader of Blue Cosmos in is rather infamous for this. He's admittedly not half bad at suckering other people to fight for him, but all of his war-winning schemes either blow up in his face spectacularly or are implied to succeed only because the true Big Bad allowed them to. Luckily for his side his Hypercompetent Sidekick, Neo Roanoke was usually on hand to mitigate the worst of it. Until Neo recovered from his amnesia and realized he was on the wrong side. Unluckily for everyone else in series, Djibril's plans always failed, but they usually took thousands of people with them.
      • Yuna Roma Seiran was worse. An example of Armchair Military at its worst, he managed to make Djibril (who at least managed to kill lots of his opponents) look brilliant by comparison. Virtually the only people Yuna managed to get killed were his own soldiers.
    • Gundam 00 gives us Klaus Grad. His victories are purely the result of Celestial Being and all his forces do is blow up, and provide other targets to distract the A-Laws. The only time Kataron actually helped Celestial Being in a meaningful way is due to someone else defecting from the A-Laws and becoming the General for that battle. However, it must be noted that he is quite aware of this(not to mention he's stuck using last-generation mobile suits made before the technology that made Celectial Being's Gundams so powerful proliferated), and thus insists on being the rear guard while Celestial Being does the heavy lifting, and he spends most of his time providing support (resupply and shelter) because he KNOWS that is all he's realistically able to do, pretty much making him an inversion of this trope. The one time Kataron does have a remotely even playing field because of the anti-beam gas (that the A-laws spread to begin with), they manage to Curbstomp the A-Laws, so he isn't a failure if he isn't screwed from the beginning.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam Age has Zeheart Galette, a Char Clone who is being stuck in the setting where the Kid Hero is less cynical and failure-prone. The guy complains a lot about his upgrades, botches a lot of missions against Asemu, becomes benched by the third season and ultimately ends up having very unstable mentality when he's put into a charge. One of his last deeds involves killing a major part of his own army in an attempt to take out one ship (where no enemy dies from the result). Nobody watching the show is convinced that his deed is sympathetic and necessary like the show tries to imply.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans has Iok Kujan. He is a massive Glory Seeker whose reckless and impulsive attitude gets his men killed, though he doesn't acknowledge he was behind it. His moment of infamy is the reactivation of the Hashmal mobile armor: when McGillis and Tekkaden uncovered the mobile armor, Iok and his men were sent to investigate as well. Believing McGillis was trying to upstage him, he tried to approach the mobile armor to destroy it, causing it to activate despite everyone warning him to stay away. This lead to the deaths of his men. He tried attacking the mobile armor again despite Tekkaden creating a plan to keep the mobile armor away from civilians, leading to the deaths of innocents, all of which he blamed Tekkaden for. His later actions lead to the deaths of the Turbines, which got him put on house arrest and, during the final battle with Tekkaden, he made the mistake of announcing his name to Akihiro, leading to his satisfying death by being crushed by the Gundam Guison Rebake Full City.
  • Hell's Paradise: Jigokuraku has Eizen. Despite holding the highest rank of the Yamada Asaemon clan, he is the very first of the Asaemon to die on Kotaku. Even his death is anticlimatic, being one-shotted by the criminal of his charge, when those lower ranked than him manage to survive encounters against more powerful enemies. It may be justified that the ranks within the clan are not distributed purely based on skill, but on their suitability to inherit the clan, so Eizen may be competent in other areas outside battle, but unfortunately those skills are useless on Kotaku island.
  • Zorin Blitz in Hellsing is a brute with no greater goal beyond wanton violence, and rather clearly got her position of First Lieutenant due to her magical prowess rather than any actual tactical sense. Not only does she defy orders to try and take the Hellsing manor (which is known to be protected by a vampire of uncertain power), but she also decides to do so in a massive zeppelin against an opponent known to make use of heavy weapons, and then charges the place across open ground when it naturally crashes (unsurprisingly, the place turns out to be covered in landmines and machinegun nests). Despite having three hundred superhuman Nazis under her command, it's only through heavy use of supernatural powers that she manages to almost defeat one weak vampire and a small mercenary band... that is, until she focuses more on Evil Gloating than actually finishing her prey off, pissing said vampire off enough to awaken to her true power. Notably, the Major ultimately denied her a dignified death, since she had behaved like such an idiot.
  • Kabuto Yakushi of Naruto has shown to be a General Failure throughout the War Arc. Edo Tensei who should have steamrolled the opposition, such as Deidara or Sasori, are sacrificed extremely early on for stupid reasons and there isn't even a proper attempt in the manga to free Deidara after he's been captured; while Sasori, despite being resurrected, isn't even given his second scroll of puppets to fight with, thus robbing him of his poison and his entire arsenal. Kinkaku and Ginkaku are sealed as well -given their personalities they were the worst choice that Kabuto could have done since they worked- as Kinkaku demonstrated, far better as pseudo-Jinchuriki berserkers. Nagato and Hanzo the Salamander, perhaps his second and third/fourth most powerful Edo Tensei, are sealed —the former given a pathetic performance since Kabuto doesn't even give him his normal field of vision, while Hanzo is foolishly set against the samurai leader Mifune, one of the few people Hanzo recognized as a Worthy Opponent in life... the problem being that Hanzo's skills have declined since their epic battle, while Mifune's have improved and his entire fighting style is the perfect counter to Hanzo. Finally, despite having four Kages, he loses all of them consecutively. The only times when he plays it smart are with Zabuza and Haku, as well as Madara Uchiha which actually scores some wins.
  • Spandam from One Piece is an abnormally vicious variation, with some of his schemes (such as framing Tom) actually coming to fruition. Yet he's still incompetent enough to mistake a Nuclear Football for his cell phonenote . This is actually a living example of Villainous Lineage since his father, Spandine, was about the same; however, Spandine, unlike his son, drew the line at killing civilians and his own men, judging from his reaction to Sakazuki doing both.
  • In the '90s anime of Sailor Moon, Queen Beryl is a decent tactician when she takes the field, but she's clearly not very good at being the commander-in-chief. She's an extremely inflexible strategist who sets individual goals and then refuses to deviate from them, she's a terrible manager who issues often-counterproductive orders that sabotage her minions and then kills them when they fail too often, and her infatuation with Endymion means that she forces Kunzite to cooperate with him despite him being The Load. More than once, the Sailor Senshi would have been outclassed if she'd just let her Shitennou do their jobs.
  • General Damon from the Valkyria Chronicles anime adaptation is, like in the video game, an arrogant Fat Bastard that got his position through nepotism and consistently sends the Gallian Army to their dooms and forces the militia to clean up after them.

    Comic Books 
  • Cobra Commander from G.I. Joe. The walking, talking (well, screaming and whining) example, especially in the animated version. Note that in the comics, a civil war eventually did erupt within Cobra specifically because of his repeated failures, and he had repeated challenges for his top spot, even though that version of the character was actually competent and did pull off a win now and then.
  • Groo the Wanderer: Groo is this whenever he ends up in charge, to the point where his enemies rejoice.
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us: As the leader of the Insurgency against Superman's Regime, Batman has a very poor record of victories against his enemies and suffers a five-year grueling campaign partly he is undermanned (most of his underlings are badass normals while the Regime has several superpowered metahumans in their ranks), but mostly because he insists in fighting a war while at the same time adhering to his "no-kill" rule against opponents that can and will kill. Over the course of the comic, he loses several allies and suffers many crushing defeats, and he is unable to come up with a solution against threats that go beyond his ken such as Apokoliptian invaders or Greek Gods. It takes him teleporting heroic versions of his fallen companions from the Prime universe, up to and including Prime Superman himself, to help turn the tide of the war in his favor.
  • Pretty much any member of the military who appears in the Marvel Universe except for Nick Fury is an idiot, but General Ross really takes the cake. His lifelong goal (some would say obsession) with bringing the Hulk to justice has obviously caused more casualties and property damage than he ever could have prevented, and cost the U.S. Army a fortune, all without results. This probably has something to do with the fact he keeps insisting on taking on the guy who turns into a giant, super-strong, bulletproof monster when under stress... by shooting him on sight. And it only gets worse; Ross proves himself the worst hypocrite imaginable when he becomes the Red Hulk, becoming just as much a menace as the one he tries to bring down.
    • Gets even WORSE in The Punisher MAX, with the overarching villain being a group of General Failures who have never seen any real combat, having ascended through the ranks entirely through mundane service. By the time the comic takes place, the Generals end up opposing Frank Castle for the sole purpose of saving their own asses from the massively bad decisions they've made throughout their careers. There's even a scene where Nick Fury whips the head general half to death with his belt for his stupidity during one military operation. The entire group is eventually slaughtered by Castle.
  • Superman: General Sam Lane is pretty much an Alternate Company Equivalent of Marvel's General Ross mentioned above, just with Superman swapped out for the Hulk as the dragon he can't stop bullying. Later General Lane shifts his irrational hatred onto the Kryptonians as a whole, which really doesn't end well for him when he decides to start a war with a New Krypton being protected by Superman's Evil Counterpart General Zod.
  • In The Transformers (IDW), Starscream ran the Decepticons into the ground with incompetent leadership during the two years Megatron was in traction. Megatron claims in his "The Reason You Suck" Speech that he doesn't fear Starscream's treachery but rather his incompetence.
  • X-Wing Rogue Squadron: Admiral Lon Isoto. His nickname was actually even "Isoto the Indecisive", as his utter incompetence had notoriety. Ysanne Isard, the Imperial Intelligence Director, used his idiocy to her advantage. She recommended him as commander of the Imperial forces at Brentaal IV. Sate Pestage, acting Emperor, foolishly took her advice. Despite help from the Imperials' best starfighter group, the 181st led by Soontir Fel, he naturally managed to lose the planet handily against the New Republic. Isard then had him shot immediately, as he'd served his purpose in making Pestage look bad so she could take over.

    Comic Strips 
  • General Halftrack, the CO of Camp Swampy in Beetle Bailey is just as incompetent as anyone under him, and at times, more so. He once asked his secretary Ms. Blipps to get him his pencil — which was behind his ear. Actually trying to lead the soldiers on drills and training exercises often causes a disaster.
  • Li'l Abner: Jubilation T. Cornpone, a satire of overly romanticized Confederate generals. President Abraham Lincoln was so grateful to Cornpone for helping the Confederacy to lose the Civil War, that he designated Cornpone's monument in Dogpatch, USA as a national shrine!
  • The concept behind the joke was parodied in a MAD spoof of Star Trek.
    Spock: Captain, we are under attack. Should I call for General Alert?
    Kirk: Where is he?
    Spock: This is no laughing matter, Captain. We have a major disaster here!
    Kirk: In that case, have General Alert and Major Disaster report to the bridge — at once!
  • Thimble Theater: General Bunzo of Nazilia. During the Great Roughhouse War Arc, he spends most of it feuding with Popeye and threatening to have King Blozo killed. When he deems defeat is certain and resigns, the Nazilia army starts winning battles. He also seems to be stubbornly unaware that his army are full of cowards- When he gives his men horses to ride into battle, they instead use the horses to retreat even faster.
    Bunzo: I resigned as chief general, and right away the army wins a battle, I can't understand that!
    Popeye: Maybe you didn't have no abiliky, Mister Bunzo.

    Fan Works 
  • In Along Came a Spider, Sharon Bryan chooses to interpret an order not to "hold ground" (as the strategic plan is to trade space for time) as authorizing her to counter-attack immediately. Several excellent regiments are destroyed by Clan Jade Falcon as a result.
  • Shining Armor is an interesting (and benevolent) example in Diaries of a Madman. While his Day Guard suffer a massive defeat in a war games exercise, it's mostly because everything he was taught doesn't stand a chance against modern human warfare techniques, rather than personal failings.
  • A Zhao expy in The Pride falls firmly under this trope. Besides deciding on a head-on charge instead of the suggested long-range bombardment (because face-to-face combat was "more glorious"), he continues his charge after the opposing army uses the Hidden Mist Jutsu to hide their movements and allow The Pride to utterly decimate his forces.
  • As re-envisaged by A.A. Pessimal, the Discworld has no shortage of General Failures. At the tail-end of Empire, a subject people who had had it up to here with Ankh-Morporkian colonial rule fought its War of Independence. The great-granddaughter of a Boor War rebel leader tells her class at the Assassins' Guild School that the Boer generals didn't need to be tactical geniuses. Just better than people called Rust, Eorle, Selachii, or Venturi. Which in her opinion did not raise the bar fantastically high.
  • A Brief History of Equestria: Sullamander, Commander of the Celestine Junta, which as a Stratocracy encouraged badasses. Sullamander, however, was by all accounts a god-awful military mare, as her every action in charge proves it. The implication is that she only got the job simply because she... knew her predecessor. As a filly.
  • Advice and Trust: Gendo is far too focused on his Scenario to make smart choices, and his tactical decisions read like a to-do list on how not to lead a military. Have your troops attack Bardiel in a straight line so they can be picked off one by one? Check. Fire your best pilots when they adapt to the situation and defeat it without destroying Unit-03? Check. Use the dummy plugs (which haven't been field tested) against Zeruel? Check. Forbid Shinji from helping against Arael and throw him in the brig when he disobeys you to help save the day? Check. That's not even getting into the fact that his Mean Boss tendencies have caused everyone to secretly turn against him.
  • Fall of Starfleet, Rebirth of Friendship: Grand Ruler Celesto is spectacularly bad at fighting a war. He exhausts his troops by having them train around the clock, neglects his economy, refuses to adapt his woefully outdated strategies to the enemy, grievously underestimates said enemy, ignores the enemy's strategy (which is blatantly obvious to everyone else on his side), denies offers of aid from allied nations, and tries to assassinate the only ponies that are keeping his own side aloft in the war. If the Equestrian ponies (particularly the Elements of Harmony) weren't worth their salt and then some, United Equestria would be unconditionally steamrolled, and even then several defeats and countless civilian casualties ensue before they're finally able to get their act together.
  • Jiang Wei in Farce of the Three Kingdoms. He's a frothing warmonger who drives Shu's economy into the ground through his endless campaigns, all of which fail disastrously due to one stupid mistake or another. His proudest moment is probably the incident when he made a plan to capture his archenemy Deng Ai that required him to give a known double agent command of Shu's supply line and place said double agent between the main army and their home base. This ends exactly well as one would expect.
  • King Pinsar in My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic. He had blown up his own planet for no reason in the backstory, he sends his warriors to their deaths repeatedly, and he gets fooled by a lie of Stag, which leads to his death. Likely the only reason he is in charge is his skill as a fighter.
  • Summer Crowns has Haenion Maegyr, who only gets put in charge of Volantis' army during its war with Qohor and Norvos due to family connections and ends up completely screwing it all up with his ineptitude, with only Rhaegar's efforts keeping the campaign afloat.
  • The War of the Masters:
    • Rear Admiral Gordon Menninger, who is in charge of the Federation's border fleet at the outset of the Federation-Klingon War. He set records as an explorer, but as a military commander loses nearly every battle he fights against the Klingons and is finally called out on it by a very drunk Kanril Eleya after the failed attempt to rescue Moab III from a major Orion attack. However, StarSword compared him to General Ambrose Burnside in that he knows he's not fit for the job, but is being kept there (Starfleet's chief is an Undine infiltrator). He ultimately resigns from Starfleet to force himself to be replaced, and the much more militarily talented Stephen Alcott is able to turn things around dramatically.
    • The Klingons have several turn up, especially in Third Fleet, after the Great Houses start meddling in warfighting to advance their political goals. Admiral Alcott takes advantage of this when he begins his counteroffensive.
  • Hordak was this in the past in Yin-Yang. All his plans to conquer Eternia backfire and blow up in his face. He suffers one humiliating defeat after another in his efforts to usurp King Miro, all of which culminates in him retreating with enough losses that Horde Prime finally decides that he's as good as dead.
  • In Boys und Sensha-do!, there's Momo Kawashima, Miho's second-in-command for the Oarai sensha-do team. Those familiar with canon will recall that the student council were originally the leaders of the tankery team, but Anzu was too lazy to command the team. As a result, the headstrong and bossy Momo became de facto commander until Anzu asked Miho to command, so she never earned her position. Momo's ineptitude becomes clear when after Miho is injured in the match against Anzio, Momo takes over during the match with Dalian, and ends up running into a trap. The day is saved only thanks to Erwin's quick thinking, and Miho gently tells Momo that she's being demoted and replaced by Erwin.
  • Zigzagged in The Mountain and the Wolf:
    • In the later chapters, the Wolf is holed up in Harrenhal, and organizes a single sortie that ends in huge casualties on either side, and his troops retreat afterwards. However, it turns out this is quite deliberate: He's quite aware that he could make a concentrated effort to wipe out the assembled Westerosi armies, but his goal is to get a lot of people killed as sacrifices to the Chaos gods, who famously "care not from where the blood fresh flows". He also uses his supernatural advantages like a teleporting longship to keep himself well-supplied (so well, in fact, that he gives a lot of meat to the Westerosi besiegers to convince them that he won't be starved out and the issue has to be resolved by battle).
    • In another case, he suggests a battle plan that's actually deemed quite sensible by the other commanders, if guaranteed to result in high casualties among the defenders of King's Landing and the Ironborn. The fact that he knew the anticipated Ironborn attack wouldn't happen probably didn't hurt.
  • The Weaver Option:
    • Ivan Byukur was dismissed from the Guard in disgrace after he got his entire armored regiment wiped out by lightly-armed rebels. Despite this, his father, the Governor of Fay, made him "Exalted Marshal" and assigns him to fight the Ork invasion of Fay. Which he promptly bungles, getting the best-equipped of their ground forces wiped out in one engagement, since he tried a "glorious" charge against an Ork force that vastly outnumbers the Imperial defenders.
    • Admiral Mikasev, Byukur's counterpart in the SDF, isn't any better. Immediately after replacing a more competent Admiral, he proceeds to kill a tenth of the flagship's crew for no reason at all, completely screws up the defense of the planet (by moving away from it to pursue a single ship), orders the use of excessive firepower against a single ship (wasting potent and expensive munitions), and then states he would have even more crewmen killed. He does all this while getting high on illegal drugs. It is no wonder that the crew, led by the Mechanicus members, mutiny in order to help save Fay.
    • The Ulm 2nd were assigned to a grossly incompetent Lord Commander. For twenty days he sent the 2nd, a unit consisting solely of cavalry, against a well-defended fortress. The result was a one-sided massacre and the General commanding the Ulm who tried to protest the orders disappeared. The slaughter only ended with the Lord Commissar executing the Lord Commander.
    • The officers selected by the Munitorum to serve as Division and Corps commanders for Operation Caribbean are almost exclusively this for a variety of reasons (most of them political). There are a handful of competent officers whose careers had stalled for political reasons, but they're vastly outnumbered by the washouts, burnouts, and outright incompetents, not to mention the ones willing to sacrifice entire armies for their own glory. To add insult to injury, they are "accidentally" ferried to the mustering planet a day or so before departure, so they miss out on the extensive training of Taylor's forces and become even more of a liability.
      • One standout example is the General who lost a war against stone age tribals because he failed to secure his water supplies.
    • The Imperial Guard considers the officers of Krieg Trade Corps (yes, that's the name of the pre-revolt Krieg PDF) to be this.
    • Overlord Simut is kept on rear guard duty at the Throne of Oblivion because Sobekhotep feels he is too incompetent to trust fighting against the Orks. When sent against the Imperium, Simut ignores warnings from his crew since he believes humanity is too primitive to pose a threat and any evidence of advanced technology like Kane particles he considers to be false. As a result, the fleet blunders right into Taylor's trap and is completely wiped out.
  • Invader Zim: A Bad Thing Never Ends: The minion trio all agree that Zim is terrible at making plans and giving orders, instead usually just throwing the three of them at a problem and expecting results, without incorporating their respective skills.

    Films — Animation 
  • Sidorak in BIONICLE 3: Web of Shadows is depicted as a barely capable oaf who can't even hit a target that's bigger than he is, doesn't like to (more likely can't) fight, and is easily manipulated by Roodaka. In the books, he is actually a pretty decent leader, and his only fault is that he spends too much time on the battlefield (and once again, trusts Roodaka too much). Unfortunately, the writers picked up his negative portrayal, and now Word of God claims he actually was a weakling who had cheated his way to glory, specifically stealing credit for one of Roodaka's best accomplishments (he took credit for having the idea she ultimately carried out, which got them leader and viceroy of the Visorak horde in the first place). That said, the books also mention that he knows he's incompetent and makes a show of always putting on a strong front and leading on the battlefield to assuage others and himself, which blinds him to Roodaka's manipulations, likely as an attempt to mold the two portrayals together.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Dr. Evil, in the Austin Powers movies. Keeps trying to blackmail the world with absurd schemes, even though Number Two is making the organization truckloads of money legitimately.
  • Parodied in the Bulldog Drummond spoof Bullshot. War hero 'Bullshot' Crummond keeps running into former members of his WW1 regiment "The Royal Loamshires", who have been mutilated in various ways due to his incompetence.
  • Adolf Hitler is presented as this in Downfall (2004). Hitler revokes control of his troops from his more experienced (and sane) commanders for perceived failures and increasingly tries to micromanage his units. He disparages the generals in Berlin as idiots who don't know what they're doing. Despite this, he himself shows a weak grasp of tactics by declaring that battalions and divisions on the verge of being overrun will hold their ground and fight no matter what and at times even grossly overestimating the fighting capacity of units which are so under-supplied and under-manned that they may as well not exist. Even the other members of his inner circle give each other nervous looks as he makes these costly decisions. After the last offensive ordered by his generals, Unternehmen Zitadelle/The Battle of Kursk of July 1943, failed and lead to a spectacular reversal which cost them Ukraine and all the Reich's (experienced) Panzer forces, this became Truth in Television for the remainder of the war.
  • General Brigham from Edge of Tomorrow is an interesting example. It's actually unclear how competent he is, because the enemy's time-travel abilities mean that they can retroactively turn any decision he makes into the worst possible one. The overall effect is of a particularly spectacular General Failure, but only because he's unaware of his outlandish situation and has understandably serious difficulty wrapping his brain around it once he is informed.note 
  • Though no specific generals are pointed out, this is the general message in Iron Eagle, where the protagonist (Doug Masters) has to steal an F-16 from the Air Force to save his dad because the government won't do anything about Doug's dad being held by an unnamed Arab country somewhere in "the Med."
  • In Kagemusha, Katsuyori Takeda disregards the defensive strategy set by his father and the other generals, with catastrophic results.
  • Kingdom of Heaven depicts Guy of Lusignan as this. An Inadequate Inheritor to the role of King of Jerusalem, his big break as commander of its armies is to abandon a position next to a lake to instead march armored soldiers through miles of desert without any kind of real resource chain to meet the armies of Saladin. Needless to say, half his troops seem to be dying of dehydration before the battle even starts. (This is largely Truth in Television; there's a reason the Battle of Hattin is so often described with labels like "greatest military disasters.")
  • Brad Whitaker from The Living Daylights is explicitly mentioned as being such, or rather is mentioned as having failed to achieve any true military rank within the U.S. Armed Forces due to having cheated while studying at West Point. So instead, he resorted to arms smuggling across the world's war-torn regions, making a fortune through his dealings and becoming a self-styled colonel of sorts, even entering a partnership with the Soviets to supply their war in Afghanistan. However, for all of his fascination with military power, those who know better of his military service rarely hesitate to point out that his rank is in truth self-appointed.
  • General Zod from Man of Steel is a tragic case of a Well-Intentioned Extremist turned into one of these because he couldn't grow beyond his own programming. The product of an alien Super Breeding Program, Zod was conceived from day one to be a military leader, and as a result can't conceive of any other way to approach problems other than through overwhelming force. If he'd been of a less forceful temperament he could have allied with his old friend Jor-El, but instead he launches a coup d'état against the Obstructive Bureaucrat-laden Council that rules Krypton, turning Jor-El against him (though unwittingly also saving himself and his subordinates from dying with the world). Later his Attack! Attack! Attack! mentality hamstrings him again when he decides to re-establish the Kryptonian race. Despite being in possession of a terraforming device that would allow him to transform any planet in our galaxy into one habitable to Kryptonians, he decides to go to war with the one inhabited planet in said galaxy, which alienates yet another El against him and mires him in another war he can't win. Perhaps most tragic is that Zod seems aware on some level that he is self-sabotaging his own efforts, as seen in a melancholy dialogue with a program of his old friend Jor-El and later a flat-out Antagonist in Mourning speech when Kal exiles every other Kryptonian but him back to the Phantom Zone. Most Failures here are so by their own pride and stupidity, but Zod is a failure because he's literally hardwired to be one.
  • The second Night at the Museum film has the reanimated General George A. Custer, who has more bravado than good sense. His great plan to surprise the enemy is to loudly announce his decision to attack before attacking. When the flaw is pointed out, he thinks for a while and comes up with a "better" plan: loudly announce they're not going to attack, and then attack. Later on in the film however, he admits that he is indeed an incompetent fraud whose greatest achievement is leading his men to their deaths in a moment of panic.
  • In Ran, Jiro deliberately ignores Kurogane's veteran military wisdom and commits to foolhardy strategies that ultimately lead to the destruction of his kingdom.
  • Star Wars:
  • Major Folly in Swashbuckler is well named. Not a single military action he attempts during the film comes off.
  • Zulu:
    • The events of the film occur as the result of the Battle of Isandlwana, at which the British expeditionary force of 2000 sent to crush the Zulus had been destroyed due to the incompetence of their leaders that the Africans took maximum advantage of. The prequel Zulu Dawn shows the absolutely terrible leadership that led to the Isandlwana debacle.
    • Prince Dabulamanzi kaMpande then attacked Rorke's Drift, despite being told specifically not to attack prepared and fortified British positions. He got about 10% of his men killed and more wounded finding out why and the position wasn't even strategically significant.

  • A very common problem for the Empire's armies in Alderamin on the Sky is that they love putting rank ahead of competence or experience, meaning soldiers constantly fight hopeless battles to cover up for their superiors' incompetence, usually at the cost of the lives of competent officers. The worst offender has to be L.T. Colonel Safida: the guy couldn't even put together a shopping list if his life depended on it, with his overworked and unthanked top subordinate keeping the regiment together. He orders pointless and cruel attacks on the native population, and when they rightfully rebel, he gets several battalions of his army killed by ignoring environmental conditions (like mountain sickness). He even gives a hostile nation a perfect excuse to launch a jihad thanks to his constant abuse towards spirits. Thankfully, he's court-martialed and executed for his war crimes once the situation is resolved by the protagonists.
  • In Angel in the Whirlwind: The Oncoming Storm, Admiral Morrison plays the Head-in-the-Sand Management trope to the hilt, preferring partying to doing his job—which leaves his fleet in horrible disrepair and morale deadly low—and convincing himself that the coming war won't come if he doesn't do anything to antagonize the Theocracy. He's presumed dead after the Theocracy invades, and protagonist Kat Falcone repeatedly laments not having killed him herself, never mind the consequences.
  • Animorphs:
    • Visser Three later Visser One embodies this trope. That's what you get for having a society basically built on Asskicking Leads to LeadershipThe Peter Principle kicks in and your stealth invasion ends up being run by a guy who kills his own troops at the slightest provocation. The heroes occasionally work to keep him in charge but are hamstrung by the "stealth" aspect. What really drives the point home is that Visser Three's entire species is built around, and understands the importance of a stealthy approach.note  Even the superiors nearly as ruthless as he is manage to understand this. Visser Three was a nobody who rocketed up to his rank thanks to being the only Yeerk to possess an Andalite (out of sheer luck as much as anything else), and his ego ballooned from there.
    • Played with in Visser Three's superior and political rival, Visser One. She could have run the Earth invasion single-handedly and probably pulled it off without a hitch, but due to orders from the Council of Thirteen she is forced to relinquish command of the invasion to Visser Three and only shows up on Earth to sabotage his efforts or take advantage of its resources for use in invasions on other planets. Later however she plays this straight when the Council makes the frankly harebrained decision to keep Visser Three in charge on Earth and send Visser One off to the new Anati galaxy. Having a mindset and leadership style that heavily favors the slow-and-steady infiltration style of invasion, Visser One is caught completely flat-footed by whatever it is that Anati throws at her and is ultimately recalled from her position and sentenced to death for her failure to take Anati (all while Visser Three has continued to make zero progress in taking Earth and is not punished in any way. The guy's gotta have a friend or two on that Council...) She had similar problems with the Leerans, who, having Psychic Powers, had basically no problems rooting out her attempts at infiltration, forcing her to resort to a flatly bizarre plan involving genetically-modified sharks.
    • Purposely averted by the bizarre Helmacrons. To ensure that their leaders never fail, all are killed before being promoted to avoid having to execute them for making a mistake.
  • Bazil Broketail: While observing this guy at work, you've got to wonder what was going through the Masters' heads when they picked General Lukash to lead their largest army ever assembled. Any minor victory he scores is only due to the massive numerical advantage his forces have over hapless, unprepared Argonathi defenders. When he faces a genuine tactical problem to solve — well-organized, battle-ready troops occupying defensive positions on a terrain which puts them at an advantage — Lukash fails to come up with any sensible strategy other than Attack! Attack! Attack!.
  • The Malwa in the Belisarius Series place purity and bloodlines above competence to the point that, even with the advantage in numbers, technical assistance from an Outside-Context Problem is the only reason for their success prior to running into the Roman Empire.
  • The Black Company: The Limper frequently clashes with the Black Company. He never wins and ends each confrontation a little more disfigured than before, until he's finally just a head strapped to a wicker body.
  • Everyone in a position of command in Catch-22 is some degree of idiot. At the end of the story, Yossarian finally realizes that his superiors are so impossibly awful at their jobs that they could never catch him if he deserted. So he does.
  • The Citizen Series is a rare example where the General Failure is the protagonist. Allen Allenson is based on George Washington and, like Washington, loses a lot more battles than he wins. His main talent as a commander is on the strategic level: maintaining his troops' morale and discipline and minimizing casualties while forcing his usually numerically superior enemies to win Pyrrhic victories.
  • City of Light: Commander Vairnath, chosen by the priests to lead Raine's side in the civil war, has a habit of suicidal attacks and other ill-advised tactics. Arvis killing him is the best thing that could happen to their side.
  • Ivan Paskevich is portrayed as this in The Death of the Vazir Mukhtar, although a) he's actually pretty successful, though this is usually attributed to his Hypercompetent Sidekicks and b) not altogether incompetent — he's a good tactician, just not supreme theatre commander material and a bad strategist, and the latter has actually made him a master of the Indy Ploy.
  • Discworld:
    • General Lord Ronald Rust from Jingo, a man who believes nursery stories qualify as military precedent and will deliberately pursue a moronic strategy because the enemy won't expect it.
    • These are so common on the Disc, perhaps in service to narrative causality, that when Sam Vimes runs across an officer who actually has a brain in Night Watch, his first reaction is "Uh-oh..." Later on in the same book, as the army makes a frontal assault on his positions, Vimes is moved to sympathy for them, wondering how Ankh-Morpork ever won its wars.
    • Several novels clarify that the military mindset of Ankh-Morpork has historically encouraged this, with generals being upper-class twits whose idea of fighting is to throw their troops at the enemy, count the resulting casualties, and if the number is a positive sum on their side, good. Actually winning is considered a nice bonus, but all that really matters is achieving a glorious slaughter that makes it into the history books. The most famous tactician in history, General Tacticus, was seen as a cheater for actually doing everything he could to avert this trope and keep as many of his men alive as possible. The main purpose of the military is to keep people like this occupied and out of town; the city's real power is in its merchant class, and we're told that more than one invading nomadic horde has been let into the city without a fight only for them to find that they've somehow become just another ethnicity in the melting pot by the time they sober up. The aforementioned Tacticus is seen as an example of how dangerous a truly intelligent general can be, as he eventually became the duke of a rival city, ended up declaring war on Ankh-Morpork itself, and caused the downfall of its empire.
  • Subverted with Kitiara of Dragonlance — she looks like she's losing a lot, but is very good at snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. She'd have you believe this was all part of her Evil Plan, though it's more likely she's just very good at improvised Xanatos Speed Chess until she gets backstabbed by the one minion she thought was loyal... Also, she was winning handily, despite being hampered by incompetent and backstabbing superiors and colleagues, until she had the misfortune to face perhaps the greatest military genius in the history of Krynn.
  • The First Law:
    • Crown Prince Ladisla proves to be an utter imbecile even by Upper-Class Twit standards and manages to turn his first (and only) command from a mere defeat into an utter catastrophe. Ignoring the advice of more seasoned officers in favor of sycophantic young lords, he takes an army made up mostly of untrained, poorly equipped, and exhausted peasant levies against hardened Northern veterans, and abandons a defensive position to take the fight to them in the certainty that a slight numerical advantage combined with 'boldness' will carry the day. He then proceeds to squander an elite heavy cavalry unit against an obvious diversion, at which point the Northern counterattack causes him to descend into panicked confusion, and his army is mostly slaughtered in the ensuing rout.
    • His subordinates General Kroy and General Poulder are said to be competent commanders, but are handicapped by their obsessive hatred for each other causing them to ignore better judgement in favor of pointless squabbling, and when their superior Lord Marshal Burr (aka the only person who could stop them fighting long enough to do their jobs) dies during the campaign against the Northmen they have every intention of grinding the Union army to a halt until one of them is promoted.
    • In the later book The Heroes, Lieutenant Jalenhorm has ended up as a Union general purely because he was one of King Jezal's old drinking buddies, and is described as a decent and trustworthy man who would have been an excellent lieutenant, a good captain, a passable major and a poor colonel, but as a general, he's a borderline disaster, as he has no grasp of things like "delegation" and "the big picture", and wastes time trying to handle every minor thing himself. To his credit, there's nobody who understands this more than Jalenhorm himself — he never wanted the promotion in the first place and is fully aware that he's completely out of his depth... but the king wouldn't take no for an answer. After one particular blunder in which thousands of his men died needlessly, he tried to take responsibility by resigning immediately, but the new Lord Marshal Kroy (who between books had managed to become a far better commander and A Father to His Men) is unable to allow it because the aforementioned Nepotism makes it politically impossible.
  • Flashman runs into a lot of these over the course of the series, given that his career puts him at almost every interesting event in the Victorian era. His description of his first commander, William Elphinstone (portrayed in the book as actually senile), provides the current page quote.
  • "Captain America" in Generation Kill is described as this, but most of the soldiers seem to just ignore him.
  • Admiral Morrison in The Great Pacific War, in ordering the US Asiatic Fleet to stand and fight in the Philippines, knowing it has no chance to survive but hoping it will take the Japanese troop transports down with it. Just as its local commander predicted, the Japanese simply waltz in and annihilate it, then send in the troop transports afterward. Morrison's aide even resigns rather than give the Asiatic Fleet the order.
  • Honor Harrington:
    • Most of Solarian League Navy's brass falls under this trope. Many of them only hold high rank due to high-level connections (either as members of naval "dynasties" or through family ties to major defense/industrial contractors), and are arrogant enough to believe that, despite the League having had no major combat experience in centuries, that they know everything there is to know about fighting a space war. Haven and Manticore originally had more than a few failures at flag rank levels, but the decades-long war weeded most of them out in a quite Darwinian fashion. What incompetent Havenite admirals didn't die in combat often died at the hands of State Sec for having failed to carry out their orders successfully, and the State Sec–friendly brand of incompetents then got weeded out in the Havenite Civil War.
    • The Manticore-Havenite War, and the two Havenite revolutions, had a secondary effect in that the rapid expansion of military forces involved (and subsequent losses) created openings for talented and combat-proven officers — such as Harrington herself — to rise to flag rank. The SLN's flag officers who didn't get their positions through outright nepotism or political maneuvering held their positions through accumulating sufficient seniority rather than any actual talent other than keeping their noses clean.
  • The Icewind Dale Trilogy: The Crystal Shard: Akar Kessel decides to magically enslave an army to conquer all he surveys. If he knew anything about commanding an army, he might have actually won. It's repeatedly lampshaded by both Errtu and the Crystal Shard itself, who both offer him good advice that he continually rejects, mostly to indulge his Control Freak tendencies.
  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes has plenty on both sides of the war.
    • The Galactic Empire has many incompetent nobles who have risen to leadership positions through Nepotism and wealth rather than talent. Reality hits them during the Lippstadt Rebellion, which puts all the Failures on one side, and Lohengramm's extremely talented officers on the other: the rebelling nobles turn out to be a bunch of hot-headed, glory-seeking, bickering idiots who practically defeat themselves tactically and strategically by doing things like rushing out for a fight, before shooting your own backlines to clear a route of escape, or nuking a rebelling planet under your jurisdiction and destroying all morale and support your movement desperately needs.
    • Meanwhile the Free Planets Alliance, while more egalitarian and democratic, has managed to get its entire national ideology tied up in defeating the Empire at all costs, resulting in them having to fight a lot of operationally unnecessary engagements purely so the politicians can look good to their voters. In particular, Fleet Admiral Lassalle Lobos, who already has several severe defeats to his name, is ordered to invade the Empire by politicians who smell blood in the water after the genius Admiral Yang Wen-Li captures the strategic Iserlohn Fortress in a False Flag Operation. Lobos gives the job of planning it to Commodore Andrew Falk, who, being congenitally incapable of accepting any information that doesn't match up with his preconceived notions, does so without taking one whit of the required logistics into account. Coupled with the opposing Admiral Reinhard predicting the invasion and going Scorched Earth on the target planets, the result is a catastrophic defeat costing the Alliance over twenty million soldiers (a 70% casualty rate), and shifting the balance of the war to the Empire permanently.
  • The Lost Fleet:
    • Most flag officers, thanks to the Forever War with the Syndicate Worlds having an extremely high attrition rate. As a result, complex fleet tactics are forgotten and Attack! Attack! Attack! mentality is prevalent with each ship individually charging at the enemy for a slug-out mostly relying on the "fighting spirit" and the captain's personal honor. By the time Geary is awoken from cold sleep, he is the most brilliant tactician in the galaxy by virtue of remembering anything at all about fleet tactics. Most admirals by this point are more politicians than fleet commanders, providing suggestions and making proposals to ship captains, who then vote on whether or not to follow them. Geary puts an end to that, reinforcing the chain of command and discipline.
    • In the spin-off series, now-Admiral Geary rescues a bunch of POWs from a Syndic world. All of these turn out to be high-ranking Alliance officers, one of whom immediately demands to take command of the fleet, claiming seniority over Geary. Someone points out that both the Alliance government and fleet HQ has given Geary command over the First Fleet and tasked him with a critical mission. The rescued officers brush him off, claiming that no one cares what the politicians want. Some of them, though, point out that they've spent years (or decades) in captivity and have no idea on the current state of affairs. Naturally, Geary is having none of that and delegates the responsibility of dealing with them to someone else. Of course, Desjani once again reminds him that he should have kept his rank of Fleet Admiral instead of demanding to be demoted.
  • In Nine Goblins, this is the norm for goblin generals, which is why most authority is in the hands of the sergeants.
  • Colonel Aureliano Buendía in One Hundred Years of Solitude fought in 32 revolutions, and lost every one of them.
  • Qiang Jin Jiu: Shen Wei's disastrous battle plan is what sets the plot in motion. When the Biansha Cavalry first invaded Shen Wei and his army could have fended them off. Instead Shen Wei decided to flee, leading to a massacre, a series of catastrophic defeats, and the Biansha Cavalry coming close to capturing Dazhou's capital. Shen Wei made such a mess of the war that he's suspected of collaborating with the enemy.
  • Being set in World War I and mostly from the POV of shell-shocked junior officers and the doctors who try to help them, The Regeneration Trilogy is full of this.
  • Safehold:
    • The first book has Faidel Ahlverez, Duke of Malikai and "Admiral General" of the Dohlaran Navy. He has no sailing expertise and is incredibly arrogant about the mere idea that a professional seaman like his subordinate Earl Thirsk could actually know how to command better than him, because of his lofty birth. Not surprisingly, he dies.
    • Subsequent books show this is a frequent problem for the militaries fighting under the banner of the Church. The competent officers, like Thirsk, are constantly saddled with other officers and leaders who don't recognize that warfare is undergoing a massive change, and they have to deal with the strategic incompetence of Zhaspahr Clyntahn who has a habit of invoking You Have Failed Me on people who weren't able to carry out his stupid plans.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Edmure Tully is a minor example, being defeated in almost every battle. The one time he manages to win one it ends up screwing up his side's longer-term strategy (though granted he wasn't told of the longer-term strategy).
    • The military commanders of Yunkai appear to be this universally, so used to fighting mock battles and paying real enemies to go away that they have no idea how to conduct a campaign. They dress their soldiers in ridiculous, impractical armor, and are nearly routed by untrained child-eunuch slaves led by a corpse strapped to a horse.
    • Renly managed to be this without even fighting a battle. His huge but glacially slow-moving army is useless when he leaves it and all his supplies behind to reinforce his home base after being outflanked, he gives command of the troops he did bring with him to a sixteen-year-old with no actual combat experience while ignoring the very competent Randyll Tarly, and his "plan" seems to be a cavalry charge, up hill, against a dug-in enemy led by the greatest general on the continent, with the sun in his forces' eyes. Luckily he's assassinated before he can get his entire force killed.
    • Lord Tywin Lannister is a mixed example. While he had a pretty good military record in his youth (Knighted during the War of the Ninepenny Kings, decisively put down the Reyne-Tarbeck revolt), everything after that point runs from middling to terrible. His only contribution to Robert's Rebellion was sacking a near defenseless capital while feigning friendship and during Greyjoy's Rebellion, he allowed his fleet to be caught and burned at anchor by the brothers Euron and Victarion Greyjoy. It only got worse during the War of the Five Kings; he managed to score a limited tactical victory over Roose Bolton at the Green Fork but this was mooted by Robb Stark's stunning victory over Tywin's son Jaime; Bolton's whole objective was to keep Tywin pinned and unable to support Jaime, which Tywin realized too late. Stark proceeded to run rings around Tywin for months and was successfully luring him into a trap in the Westerlands until the battle of the Fords, where Tywin sent his army into costly and futile assaults trying to dislodge Edmure Tully. Tywin's campaign, and his reputation, was only saved by news reaching him about Stannis's attack on the capital and the alliance with the Tyrells, allowing him to disengage from the Riverlands and to claim credit in the victory on the Blackwater. After that, he gave up trying to defeat Robb directly and resorted to subterfuge.
      • The aforementioned trap, if successful, would have won the war for Robb Stark then and there; Robb knew that Stannis had to attack the capital at some point and with the Tyrells apparently neutral then Tywin's army was the only force nearby that could stop him. Robb's strategy was to attack Tywin's base of power in the Westerlands and force him to follow Robb; the objective was keep Tywin pinned in the Westerlands and too far away to reinforce King's Landing, and for a time Tywin was falling for it. The only reason Tywin wasn't lured far enough away in time was that Edmure exceeded his orders and fortified the fords leading into the west instead of offering token resistance like he was supposed to; the delay allowed messengers to reach Tywin and tell him of the new developments to the south. Ultimately, Tywin won the war not because he was a better general or politician but due to a combination of factors completely outside his control.
    • From the backstory in Fire & Blood, you have Aemond Targaryen, younger brother to King Aegon II who, during the "Dance of Dragons" against their half-sister Rhaenyra, takes over their faction's war effort after his elder brother is left convalescent from battlefield injuries. Perceiving his uncle Daemon's occupation of Harrenhal as a personal challenge, Aemond ignores all advice and strips King's Landing of its defenders for an all-out attack on Harrenhal. When Aemond's army arrives at Harrenhal, they find it abandoned and start celebrating that Daemon was too cowardly to face them in battle...only to discover that Daemon had circled around and attacked the defenceless King's Landing from the land at the same time Rhaenyra attacked from the sea, meaning Aemond effectively handed the capital and the throne to his enemy. Rather than do something constructive like lead his army back to retake the capital, Aemond flies off on his dragon to lay waste to the surrounding countryside for the sole purpose of soothing his wounded pride; when his captains decide to march back to King's Landing on their own initiative, without Aemond's dragon Vhagar to provide them aerial protection, they're ambushed by an army of Rhaenyra loyalists who massacre them.
  • Mentioned in Harry Harrison's The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You, where one of the first hostile actions of the aliens against humanity is the kidnapping of the top brass of the Space Navy. Non-commissioned officers immediately took over their responsibilities, vastly improving the efficiency of the fleet.
  • In Stark's War, the army's officer corps contains almost nothing but. There are good officers, but they end up sidelined — it's the ones who focus on political games and sucking up to their superiors who are rewarded, not the ones who actually do their jobs. And since officers rotate through positions so quickly (and can jump ship to cushy jobs with a Mega-Corp if need be), they're never held to account for failure.
  • In the Star Trek: Enterprise Relaunch novels, Romulan Praetor D'deridex insisted on opening up a front at Haakona despite the Romulans being occupied fighting a full-out war with the Human/Andorian/Tellarite alliance. Admiral Valdore had no choice but to follow orders, despite knowing a war on two fronts would be a disaster for Romulus.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Jedi Academy Trilogy: Admiral Daala is described as a tactical and strategic prodigy, yet her attempts to strike back at the New Republic were easily foiled. It is debatable, whether this was caused by poor planning and disorganization, or by good guys having Suncrusher-grade plot armor when written by her creator, the infamous K.J. Anderson. Her only lasting achievement was acknowledging her own failures and uniting the remaining Imperial forces under a single leader rather than a group of feuding warlords, which in fairness did lead to the Imperial Remnant getting behind her co-conspirator, the very awesome Pellaeon, and she may have gotten better by Legacy of the Force. Other books offer an array of explanations for Daala's failures – it's mentioned that she excelled at infantry tactics, while her war against the New Republic was waged by fleet. Death Star offers a retcon suggesting that she suffered brain damage at some point, while there's a long-standing rumor that she earned her rank at least partially by being Grand Moff Tarkin's lover (she was his mistress but denies the nepotism allegation to Pellaeon, and the last person to suggest the possibility in Tarkin's presence got Thrown Out the Airlock with his spacesuit's comlink on so everyone could listen to how sorry he was as his orbit decayed). Another problem is that Daala worships Tarkin to a massive degree, resulting in her using his tactics despite the fact that the New Republic is already very experienced in dealing with those tactics as well as following his philosophy despite how it backfired on the Empire leading to its dissolution in the first place.
    • X-Wing Series: Ysanne Isard, aka Iceheart, provides a rare justified example. As head of Imperial Intelligence she was a terrifying, manipulative spymaster who broke captives down into Manchurian Agents and murdered her way into becoming a major power behind the throne. But when she tried her hand at running a war, her We Have Reserves mentality (with an astonishing degree of You Have Failed Me) didn't work so well given that, post-Endor and a Balkanize Me between various warlords (Isard at one point has to rent an Interdictor cruiser from High Admiral Teradoc), the Empire no longer had effectively unlimited resources. As time went on she also started putting more emphasis on getting revenge against Rogue Squadron than the war's ultimate success. The result was a Villainous Breakdown along with Motive Decay that even Isard could see, while her empire fell apart as her underlings abandoned her. One defecting admiral even called Isard out with a lengthy "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
      • There's even evidence for the theory that she was never competent; her position in Imperial Intelligence was parleyed out of the results of her first mission, which was a complete failure. (She was unlucky there, but displayed neither genius nor idiocy.) While her father (who'd sent her) was considering how to save her career, she slapped together evidence to accuse him of treason and sabotaging her mission, and personally killed him before anybody else could review that or her mission results. This seems to have brought her to Palpatine's amused attention; while only rumored to have been her lover he definitely treated her as a favored pet. And just as the visibility of Darth Vader, the proclaimed "Dark Lord of the Sith" towering over the frail old man empathised for the public the latter's physical incapacity and reliance on Vader's firm grip to check the hawkish military, the image of a vengeful and seemingly omniscient Director of Imperial Intelligence naturally stopped speculation as to the source of the Emperor's foresight. And even after his death, there's more hard evidence for the ability of Imperial Intelligence to plausibly claim responsibility for disastrous events after the fact than to actually instigate them.
  • Stellenbosch by Rudyard Kipling describes how it feels to have such a commander.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • Saruman of The Lord of the Rings, despite being an incredibly skilled wizard, takes Too Clever by Half to extremes when it comes to strategy. At the start of the War of the Ring, he has an army of over ten thousand well-armed Uruk-Hai and wildmen and strong alliances with both Rohan and Mordor. Over the course of just half of The Two Towers, he incites conflict with both of them (by killing Rohan's heir and trying to steal the Ring), knowingly pisses off the community of super-strong treemen right on his border and then orders a massive assault on a fortified stronghold with his entire army. He also makes a number of tactical mistakes in said assault, such as bringing no siege engines besides blasting fire and ladders, not fortifying his rear (despite active fortifications being there) and staying behind in his tower to leave the battle to unnamed commanders, resulting in the army breaking in morale the moment they're attacked from behind.note  It's not for no reason that Gandalf claims he abandoned reason for madness.
    • Túrin, of The Children of Húrin, is an interesting one in that he's actually a very good tactician—he is consistently very successful at winning individual battles, and earns respect as a leader of men. However, as a strategist, he is horrific, and a fantastic example of how focusing on winning battles can often lead to losing wars. By his death at the age of 35, he had risen to the command of three different forces of varying size and composition, and subsequently led all three down the path of destruction for largely the same reason. The reason: Túrin, in total disdain for the stealthy and defensive approach most other commanders have adopted, wants to take the fight to Morgoth, despite the fact that Morgoth's forces outnumber and outclass the scattered and disunited Free Peoples many times over by now, and any open conflict will inevitably end in him bringing the hammer down and crushing any resistance. His most notorious accomplishment was probably his command of the Hidden Elf Village of Nargothrond, which had both an obscure location and a natural fortification in the form of a strong river. Túrin pushed for them to build a huge, conspicuous stone bridge over the river, so that they could more easily go on the offensive—said stone bridge not only made Nargothrond's location obvious, but it meant that when it inevitably lost a big battle, the enemy could simply waltz across the bridge and burn the now-depleted fortress to the ground.
    • Salgant of the Harp, an Elf-Lord in The History of Middle-earth, was one of Gondolin's nobility, and one of the highest Elf-Lords of the Noldori people. However, he was cowardly, lazy, gluttonous, and failed at almost every military attempt he made, his only thinkable strategies being deception and betrayal. He got no respect from his own men or from his fellow Elf-Lords, but was arrogant in and of himself, and thus decided to aid Maeglin, Morgoth's ally, in the Siege of Gondolin. While Maeglin led his troops out to fight their former kinsmen, Salgant stayed locked up in his house, terrified of his own troops' disobedience.
  • Desdel Stareye, a night elf commander of La Résistance during The War of the Ancients. While his predecessor, Kur'talos Ravencrest, was an experienced general (if a bit too political for his own good), Stareye was incompetent and only got to a commanding position due to his status as a nobleman. He hated non-elves and relegated tauren, furbolg, and earthen (proto-dwarves) to support roles, despite them being at their best on the front lines. He also refused to listen to Rhonin, Broxigar, and Krasus, despite the latter posing as an elf, even though all of them have plenty of experience fighting the Burning Legion. His "grand" battle plan involved the combined army marching at the enemy in a staggered formation, whose "tips" were supposed to break through the enemy lines. While this worked at first, this was revealed to be a trap, resulting in many casualties, including Stareye himself. After his death, the lowborn Jarod Shadowsong took command and proved to be at least as (if not more) competent as Ravencrest. He also actively supported integrating the non-elven troops into the army. After the end of the war, Jarod became one of the leaders of the night elf society.
    • Jarod's sister Maiev proves little better in the long run during World of Warcraft: Illidan. In her pursuit of Illidan, at first she's cautious enough to realize she can't recapture or kill Illidan with the small night elf force she has, so she opts to spend time journeying among the Outlands and building her own army. However, as she becomes more paranoid and obsessive in capturing him, when they finally come to blows with their armies, she continues fighting even after it made more sense to retreat due to the entire thing being a trap, literally deciding that her life and the lives of those under her were ultimately expendable if it meant she could get a shot at Illidan. End result? Everyone else dies and she's captured by the very being she despises most, and it's all her fault. Even better, the only thing her hatred for Illidan was overshadowed by was her hatred for blood elves and mages, which she refused to allow to join her army despite being in desperate need of allies and them being a major boon for fighting Illidan.
  • It's a near Running Gag in The Wheel of Time series that High Lord Weiramon thinks a good cavalry charge will solve any problem, and if left to his own devices will get most of his forces killed while 'heroically' surviving himself and remaining enthusiastic for the next battle. Eventually Rand resorts to sending him on missions that he wants to fail. At the end of the series, his antics prove a subversion: he's actually a darkfriend and has been deliberately trying to sabotage Rand's military efforts.
  • The unnamed general at Yonkers in World War Z bungles just about every aspect of the battle, having his soldiers dig out massive Cold War-style static defenses in the middle of a road, vastly underestimating the scope of the zombie horde, and basically squandering his fairly impressive firepower while not actually providing them with enough ammo to wipe the enemy out. Even the soldiers on the ground can look around and see the massive swathes of cover or favorable terrain that they aren't making use of, presumably because simply having the brigade camp out on a roof and gun down the zombies at their leisure wouldn't be glamorous enough.
  • Major General Sir Alan Jacks in the satire The Year of the Angry Rabbit. The Australian Prime Minister keeps him as The Scapegoat in case something goes wrong, and justifies his appointment to the media by saying that as Jacks has been wrong about every intelligence prediction he's ever made, the odds are that he will finally be right at just the right time. Strangely this turns out to be true — it's Jacks who has the idea of using the eponymous rabbits (carrying a strain of myxomatosis lethal to humans) as a biological weapon so Australia can Take Over the World.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blackadder Goes Forth:
    • General Sir Anthony Hogmanay Melchett, a parody of British WWI generals.
    • Also Field Marshal Douglas Haig, whose primary battle plans consist of ordering the British soldiers to leave their trenches and walk very slowly towards the enemy, which had already been tried 18 times unsuccessfully.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Rather than brokering his supreme naval power in the west into the wealth and land his people need by supporting one of the powerful factions, Balon Greyjoy decides to pay the iron price and conquer lands he cannot hope to hold. Due to the Ironborn's inferior numbers, inferior training for fighting on land, and difficulty in supplying and reinforcing their troops the further inland they go, this ends with spectacular failure. Only the faction he invades spares him a second thought and even they do not divert forces from their main campaign. In Season 6, Yara calls him out about how all of his plans for the Ironborn have ended in ruin for them.
      • Balon's son Theon doubles down on this by sneakily capturing Winterfell with only a few men. However, as is pointed out to him, he is too far away from the coast for resupply and reinforcements and holding a city that gives the Greyjoys little in the way of strategic value.
    • Edmure Tully has a good eye for individual battles but fails to grasp larger strategies, such as when he defeats Gregor Clegane but in the process drives him out of a trap Robb was preparing.
    • Robb Stark makes a few errors that end with him being short on manpower which logistically dooms him and his attempts to recruit more men fail spectacularly at the Twins. He also gives orders that lack vital information, like not to engage Gregor Clegane because he's setting a trap.
    • Tyrion Lannister becomes this trope in Season 7 when his strategy for Daenerys' conquest of Westeros backfires catastrophically almost immediately leading to most of her allies and forces being captured or killed — which severely strains Daenerys' trust in him (but luckily not enough to sack him). To be fair it's not entirely his fault. He had been away from Westeros for nearly two years and the intel he based his strategy off of was outdated — and none of Daenerys' Westerosi allies felt like correcting him, even as he explained his strategy right in front of them. His scheme to broker a truce with Cersei by bringing a wight from the North to convince her of the threat the White Walkers represent led to one of Daenerys' dragons being killed and revived as a wight by the Night King (partially because of Jon Snow's attempt to kill the Night King delaying their escape), who proceeded to use it to breach the wall. To make matters worse, Cersei refuses to lend them any aid which rendered the whole plan useless and accelerated the White Walkers' invasion into Westeros. It's also muddled because the main things he failed to anticipate were absurd plot contrivances like "the Ironborn will somehow build a new fleet bigger than any in the world in a matter of months that can remain completely undetected until attacking and somehow operate in full strength in every theatre at once" which it's hard to blame him for.
    • Ser Stafford Lannister, as with most Lannister commanders not named Tywin. Even though the Lannister forces had surrounding Oxcross completely under lockdown, they failed to account for the Stark direwolves, allowing Robb to get the jump on him and his men with the help of Grey Wind. In the books, Tyrion thinks very little of his uncle, and most are well aware that his son Daven would make a far better commander.
  • Hogan's Heroes:
    • Colonel Klink is an example where the good guys are going out of their way to keep the idiot in charge. Interestingly, this was at the insistence of Klink's actor, Werner Klemperer. Klemperer's Jewish family fled Germany during the Third Reich, and he later enlisted in the American army to help fight in World War II. He consented to play Klink only on the condition that Hogan and company would always win the day and that Klink was portrayed as a complete idiot rather than a competent Nazi who's simply outplayed by the heroes. This did vary depending on the episode; sometimes he's just an idiot, sometimes he's aware of what they're doing but pretends not to, and a few times he's actively against the Nazi regime himself.
    • Same rank, different side, there is Colonel Crittendon. The man is Lawful Stupid (on his first episode, the Heroes cut him off from their loop when he makes it clear that if he actually knew about their covert operations, he would give them up to the Nazis immediately because that is what the Geneva Convention is telling him to do), plain stupid (his "cunning plan" to covertly take out someone necessary to the German war effort involves a massive amount of explosives), a massive Walking Disaster Area (he's a recurring character because every operation he's part of or plane he gets into is utterly obliterated, with only him the survivor), and The Neidermeyer (pulling rank [and seniority] on Hogan every time he's on the Stalag and diverting necessary efforts into escape plans — because it's a sworn duty of soldiers to try to escape, otherwise he'd be fine with waiting). The man can't even break out of jail — in his first appearance, he mentions having made eleven attempts over the course of less than a year and having been caught every time (so Hogan is pretty concerned about his bungling putting his men on worse Stalag facilities, shot, or their operations exposed).
  • Kamen Rider Revice: Hiromi Kadota is a genuinely a noble, heroic person, who attained the rank of commander thanks to his hard work. Unfortunately, he is neither the dumbest nor the brightest, has an inferiority complex mile wide and his good nature leaves him open to manipulation and rash decisions. Attempting to use the Revice Driver despite warnings comes to bite him massively by causing significant collateral damage and nearly getting him killed. Even worse for him, he was dishonored and demoted.
  • Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger: Tozitend's field general Barashitara is a pure distillation of all reason why this trope can be such a pain. A cruel, petty, Stupid Evil Bad Boss, whose inability to see past his own self-importance directly cost the invasion force at least two victories and caused an unknown number of other screw-ups. It doesn't help he has very little patience, carries a rocket launcher everywhere, and both his superiors and underlings indulge him, be it voluntarily or not.
  • M*A*S*H:
    • Colonel Flagg. Not exactly a "villain" but certainly an "antagonist" who always fails in his "intelligence" missions. His first appearance has him break his own arm so he can infiltrate the 4077th — a hospital unit with no intelligence issues to be found. He mentions later on that even he doesn't know what the truth is (so nobody can get it out of him) because he's so paranoid that he keeps himself in a state of total confusion.
    • General Steele attempts to be a frugal leader by ordering the hospital moved directly to the front lines (when they are already close enough to get shelled by both sides) to cut down on fuel consumption. He's also bat-shit crazy, and it comes to a head when he attempts to have Hawkeye court-martialed for air-lifting a patient to Seoul when he wanted to use that chopper to observe the unit's move, then starts singing and dancing in the middle of the trial. Notably, the other character Steele's actor played the following season was the unit's new CO Colonel Potter, who was very much not this trope.
  • Red Dwarf: Overlapping with General Ripper is resident military nut Rimmer. In "Meltdown", when given the chance to act out his fantasies by leading an army of wax robots based on historical figures to victory against a faction of evil wax-droids, winds up killing three of his own soldiers from overexertion during training exercises, sacrifices all but one of his army as a distraction, and commits genocide on the entire wax-droid population, achieving victory in a technical sense but one that horrifies the rest of the Boys from the Dwarf.
  • During the Dominion War of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Gowron rapidly devolves into this. Furious that lowborn General Martok has been leading the Empire to great victories and amassing quite a following, Gowron inserts himself into the war effort. Ordering Martok on foolhardy missions to stain his reputation, and wasting countless Klingon lives on even more foolhardy attempts to net himself some battlefield glory. His staggering incompetence leads Worf to enact a literal Klingon Promotion, offing him in honorable combat and appointing Martok as Chancellor.
  • King Horik from Vikings is a fatalist and believes that before any battles the Fates decide who will win, who will lose, and who will die. So he doesn't bother to think about things like strategy since it's already decided, and instead favors charging blindly at the enemy... and walking straight into multiple devastating defeats.

  • At least two examples in Embers in the Dusk:
    • Surprisingly, the Necron leader during the Necron Invasion. He seemed to think that slowly marching your troops in the general direction of the enemy is a good tactic. The QM rolled a natural 3 on a 100-faced dice for his skill.
    • Warboss Headcrusha was so impressively stupid that the Trust was actively trying to keep him alive as any replacement would be much smarter.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The franchise features more than a few Imperial generals who fit this description, officers who got their ranks through family connections and have never been in actual combat. Their strategies tend to center around the fact that the Imperial Guard has a lot of men in it, and if you throw enough of them at the enemy you'll eventually win. Some generals even manage to screw that up. This is brought into even sharper relief by a few examples of pragmatic, tactically solid military leadership; for instance, Lord General Zyvan of the Ciaphas Cain series, who once actively avoided picking a fight with the Tau because the crappy backwater planet they were on wasn't worth the effort and is quite good at putting limited resources where they can do the most good.
      • The sixth edition Imperial Guard codex suggests that particularly incompetent commanders eventually wind up meeting a Commissar's bolt round, no matter their social rank.
      • Fridge Logic occurs when you realize that the only reason the PDF is worse, is because the Imperial Guard took all the competent commanders and soldiers since it's common knowledge that sending a sub-par tithe of men or materials will get the Imperial Governor a visit from the Adeptes Arbites.
      • The prime example of this was Herman von Strab, Overlord of the planet of Armageddon. An Unexpected Successor after the mysterious deaths of his brothers and father, Strab was the main reason the Second War for Armageddon was as destructive as it ended up being. His primary strategies included ignoring the massive Ork ship overhead and every single portent foretelling disaster, refusing to inform the rest of the Imperium so he could handle the Orks himself, banishing Commissar Yarrick when he did, breaking up his forces and sending them in bite-sized chunks against a foe who outnumbered them considerably, proclaiming that the Orks couldn't get through Armageddon's jungle (which they did in two days), sending in a Titan Legion with absolutely no combined-arms support, and pinning all his hopes on a bunch of ancient Doomsday Devices that turned out to be centuries past their expiration date. End result: Ork Waaagh in full "green tide" mode, Ghazghkull in control of most of the planet, Armageddon's defenses in ruins, the Iron Skulls Titan Legion wiped out to a man, and the responsibility of saving Armageddon now in the hands of Yarrick and the Space Marines. The rest is history.
    • Ork Warbosses in general tend to be brutish thugs who gain their positions by being bigger and more violent than everyone else and rarely have tactical or strategic expertise beyond "yell and charge". Ironically, those of them who have some degree of tactical insight tend to fare worse as they are only used to highlight how mighty defenders of the Imperium are. The worst example is Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka, the largest and smartest of all orks, prophet of Gork and Mork on the task to reunite the ork race. Somehow he is a galactic threat despite losing every major battle whenever Space Marines or a certain old man with silly hat and an oversized powerclaw are involved. Luckily, in 7th edition, he shook off Black Templars pursuit and joined war in Octarius Sector. He seems to have far better luck fighting Tyranids.
      • And he's the smartest Warboss in Ork history. The vast majority of Warbosses, if they do end up using tactical smarts, still follow the tried-and-true Ork tactic of throwing literally anything and everything they have at their opponent, ignoring casualties or sensible strategies. Warbosses are more of organizers rather than leaders. Moments of tactical/strategical acumen coming from Ork Warbosses are quite rare and tend to result in massive casualties for the non-Ork because no one expects it.
      • When he got his own codex it was revealed/retconned that Ghazghkull's actual goals aren't to win his wars outright, but to create ever-growing perpetual meatgrinders that drive the tribes to war under his banner on a galactic scale, getting perpetually stronger and gathering more and more ork tribes to his banner. Armageddon is one, Octarius is now a second after he tipped the balance against the 'nids, and he's now traveling the galaxy trying to set up more.
    • Eldar Farseers. They have absolutely no understanding of military matters and guide their brethren relying only on future precognition. Whenever said prophecies are incorrect, interpreted incorrectly, or simply based on chancenote , things go south. Eldar are also known for ridiculously low win rates even in its own codex. Authors seemed to notice this and Eldar warhosts are more frequently led by Warlocks (seers that do have military training) or Autarchs (actual generals) with a Farseer filling an adviser role; while they do have an influence over an Eldar warhost, anyone with actual military experience can override them.
    • By the late stages of the Horus Heresy, most of the Traitor Primarchs had become barely functional shells of their former selves due to a bad case of This Is Your Brain on Evil, with Angron stripped down to a pure killing machine, Magnus busy with other projects, Kurze descending into obsessive self-loathing and sadism, Lorgar an unhinged fanatic and Fulgrim so addled by hedonism that his forces pretty much ignored the actual objectives of the mission in favour of committing random atrocities on civilians. Eventually Perturabo quit the siege of the Palace entirely rather than attempt to weave a coherent siege strategy out of the disjointed nonsense of his fellow traitors, and when the Only Sane Man is the guy with a crippling martyr complex, a Hair-Trigger Temper and a total disregard for human life, you can imagine how bad the others were.
    • Pretty much the only races to not have any standout examples are the Tau and the Tyranids (unless you count the Swarmlord, who's developed a stigma of "nerfed into uselessness"). Good for the Tau because given the tiny size of their empire compared to everyone else, this is presumably the only reason why it's lasted so long. Bad for everyone other than the Tyranids because... well, Tyranids.
      • The Tau's "Greater Good" philosophy is utterly alien to humans because the Tau actually will fall back and stop contesting an objective if it becomes obvious the resources tied up could be put to better use elsewhere because while every Tau is ready to sacrifice himself for the, well, Greater Good, Tau commanders look for strategies that involve minimal loss of life for their army (and in fact, glorious last stands are kind of looked down on among the Tau, because a commander who let the situation degrade so badly without evacuating clearly wasn't that much of a commander).
  • Warhammer
    • Thanquol, one of the Grey Seers of the Skaven. He's only got power because he lucked out and was born with grey fur and horns, marking him as a Grey Seer; he's such a disaster as a leader that when he was captured by a Slann, said Slann looked into the future, saw how much damage he was going to do to his own side, and sent him home. To put that in perspective, Lizardmen as a whole (and Slann in particular) absolutely despise Skaven, but Thanquol is so abysmal that leaving him alive would do far more damage to the Skaven than killing him on the spot. The novel Skavenslayer, his first outing as a major antagonist, features him repeatedly tipping off the main characters to major parts of his own plan in the hope of killing off any of his allies who he considers a threat to him claiming credit for the invasion of the Empire city he's ostensibly trying to destroy, and then being surprised when this caused problems for him down the line.
    • Konrad von Carstein was a vampire lord who managed to terrorize the Empire for several decades despite his lack of tactical, strategic, and logistical competence, not to mention sanity. Accounts of his battles indicate he had basically one tactic - a headlong charge, though occasionally he managed to pick a good moment to do it. His moderate success can be attributed to his prodigious personal strength and his bloodlust managing to attract a number of highly elite Blood Knight vampires, and the Empire being so divided at the time that when the three people currently claiming the Imperial throne allied against him, two of them still tried to assassinate each other mid-battle. He was eventually slain when a great alliance of imperial forces and dwarfs (who he had also attacked, for no particular reason) came together, he mindlessly charged them, and his long-abused necromancers picked this moment to let most his army fall apart.
  • Vlad Drakov, a permanent guest of the Ravenloft setting, has this enforced on him as his darklord curse. Previously, he had been a successful mercenary general who was nonetheless treated with disdain by the rulers who hired him and his men and had aspired to rule a land of his own. After being taken into the mists, he found himself ruling Falkovnia, a domain under perpetual martial law, where soldiers were the most respected of professions and he ruled with an iron fist. However, his section of real estate was surrounded by domains ruled by women and fops, not the men of war he wanted to be recognized by. He tries constantly to invade other lands, but the Demiplane itself will never allow him to win, even against the relatively puny and undermanned forces of his neighbors. And with every crushing defeat (and mind you, every defeat is crushing), his reputation as a hamfisted, incompetent tyrant spreads, the exact opposite of the respect he wants to achieve.
  • BattleTech:
    • The Lyran Commonwealth has an unfortunate history of "social generals" — officers who were promoted not because of actual leadership ability, but because of personal wealth and connections. Naturally, these don't always make the best strategists or tacticians. Fortunately for the commonwealth, lower ranking officers have a tradition of being Hyper Competent Sidekicks who, when things go well, are able to get their superiors to accept their suggestions, at least enough of the time that the Commonwealth has mostly managed to give as good as it gets over the years.
    • One particularly infamous example was Thomas Hogarth, a particularly incompetent buffoon who graduated in the lower third of his class in the military academy but kept managing to get assigned to prestigious units due to his family's connections. He scored a few victories over the years through things like getting lost and accidentally stumbling into the enemy's HQ. He was eventually "promoted" to a prestigious but meaningless position with the idea that he'd just stay there until he retired, but then the Word of Blake Jihad broke out and he scored an accidental victory against Blakist elements who were attacking the factory on his planet. This led to him being declared "Hero of the Commonwealth" for propaganda reasons, and unfortunately ended up getting him reassigned back to active military duty. Due to this, he was eventually given command of one of the forces that Stone's Coalition invaded Terra with, where his bungling caused the accidental destruction of Singapore.
    • Entirely too many high-ranking officers and Warlords of the Draconis Combine have shown similar tendencies for the Dragon's comfort. In their case, the root cause tends to be a mix of ambition, obsession with martial glory, and the Combine's take on bushido, and one major example where it comes back to repeatedly bite them is the initial Clan Invasion, during which tradition- and hidebound commanders lead their troops into "glorious" and "honorable" attacks against the Clans on multiple occasions only for the latter's familiarity with very much the same approach to warfare and formidable technological edge to promptly turn those encounters into Curb Stomp Battles.
    • Clan generals have the same tendencies as the above Combine example. For centuries, Clan society focused around the gaining of honour through fair-minded, minimal-waste engagements fought entirely on the tactical level. High-ranking commanders in Clan society tended to be those who could kick the most ass inside a 'mech cockpit, not those who could lead two hundred 'mechs to victory in a large battle, or prepare the logistics needed to use those 'mechs to take a dozen worlds. Thus, when the time came to invade the gigantic Inner Sphere, the Clan leaders (with two exceptions) proved unable to think of the invasion in strategic terms and treated the whole thing as they would any inter-Clan struggle, bidding down their armies and engaging the Inner Sphere in "fair" fights to obtain maximum honour for each warrior. Despite the element of surprise, the Inner Sphere being weakened by civil war, and superior infantry and BattleMechs, the Clans failed to capture less than a fifth of the Inner Sphere before the invasion ground to a halt. This got so bad that when Khan Ulric of the Wolf Clan (one of the two aforementioned exceptions) kept on moving his front lines because he'd actually prepared for fighting the Inner Sphere, the other Khans accused him of cheating. Not for nothing is the most successful general in the history of the Clans, Alaric Ward, actually the genetic son of an Inner Sphere noblewoman.
    • Clan Ice Hellion is infamous for its tactics which can be summarized as Attack! Attack! Attack!. Their commanders favor speed over everything else, as such they field light and medium mechs, against opponents who like fielding larger and more heavily armed Omnimechs. The worse example is Khan Raina Montose, who led the disastrous invasion of Clan Jade Falcon's occupation zone, which resulted in the former Clan's destruction.

    Video Games 
  • Senator Valtome, Duke of Culbert in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. His first act as general of Tellius' largest and most powerful army? Sending troops to a horrible, fiery death in an attempt to search for the enemy's corpses. Of course, this also makes him very practical, since he knows full well the Never Found the Body trope.
    • All the Begnion senators are like this. They haven't a shred of tactical acumen to go around, but they are very aware their personal levies rival the size of the other nations' entire armies. Their long-suffering field commanders and a plethora of dirty tricks are the only reasons their forces don't get slaughtered.
  • Dimitri in Fire Emblem: Three Houses leads his troops to their doom in all routes except his own, due to a combination of mental illness brought about by years of trauma clouding his judgement and the Blue Lions lacking a dedicated strategist. He tries to avert this in the Crimson Flower route where he's ironically at his most mentally stable, but, unfortunately for him, Edelgard and Hubert are able to figure out his strategy because it's so unlike his usual tactics and turn the tables on him.
  • Prince Thrakhath of the Wing Commander series, especially in the Expanded Universe. Every single master plan he's made for the defeat of the Confederation has ultimately failed (many through the interference of Geoffrey Tolwyn), and if it weren't for the fact that he's the Emperor's designated heir, he would have been assassinated long ago. It is thought by many Kilrathi (in private, if they want to keep their heads) that it's Thrakhath's obsession with the humans that's driving the war, to the net detriment of their society, especially since the real purpose is to prepare them to face an even greater threat from deeper in the galaxy. Thrakhath's failure ultimately leads to the destruction of Kilrah and the utter defeat of the Empire.
  • Played pretty straight in X Com UFO Defense. Having a Good Bad Bug that reset the game to "easy" didn't help of course, but once you've flown to Cydonia and gunned your way through, the Big Bad turns out to be a giant brain which supposedly controls the aliens, but does absolutely nothing in game terms. It will sit there doing nothing until you shoot it dead. The game also has a hidden script in UFO missions that have all aliens go on the offensive around turn 20. Knowing that, you can clear out all aliens outside the UFO and then place a firing squad in front of the entrance and wait for the aliens to rush out, throwing a smoke grenade for good measure to prevent the aliens from getting the first shot.
  • Medal of Honor (2010) has a rare good guy example in the form of General Flagg, who micromanages the operation via a teleconference while wearing a business suit. His commands result in an easily-avoidable friendly fire incident.
  • Sanan generals Ku-Embra and Ku-Tsung in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn. They're deadly in combat, but poor strategists; when the protagonists arrive, their soldiers are all milling around aimlessly rather than engaging in anything productive, and the protagonists realize that as long as the generals don't specifically give them new orders, that's all they'll do.
  • StarCraft:
    • General Duke, who has the misfortune of regularly being on the opposing side of whichever army you're playing through virtually the entire run of the game and its expansion. As a result, in-game, he wins precisely one battle, over Tarsonis, a planet whose defenses he already knows inside and out, in the only mission where he is on your side. Other than that, he gets spanked by Raynor's Raiders in their escape from the Dominion, he gets thrashed by the Zerg on Char, he gets a fleet vaporized by the Protoss under Tassadar, he gets another fleet wiped out by the UED, he gets thrashed by the UED once more on Korhal, and at last Kerrigan mercifully wipes him and his men out in a surprise attack after the UED have been driven off Korhal again. Suffice to say, his track record after joining forces with Mengsk was a bit spotty.
    • Horace Warfield in StarCraft II doesn't ever seem to be able to accomplish anything except getting shot down. Eventually, he joins the ground war and lets the player do the commanding, though in Starcraft II he's defended the Dominion against the zerg and has led no less than five counterattacks against them. In Heart of the Swarm, however, Warfield fares reasonably well against the zerg Queen Zagara, leveraging the Dominion's superior defensive technology and air and missile superiority for all they're worth. It's implied that he would eventually have won had Kerrigan not come to direct matters personally.
  • Fallout: New Vegas:
    • General Lee Oliver, or "General Wait-And-See" as many of his troops call him. According to Boone, he received his position because he's friends with President Kimball. His strategy (or "Tunnel Vision" as Mr. House calls it) to defend Hoover Dam from Caesar's Legion consists of one glorious slaughterhouse on the dam, in an effort to overshadow Ranger Chief Hanlon's more tactically nuanced defense of the dam four years earlier. This means his only tactic is to mass troops on the Dam, leaving other territories and bases deeply undermanned and open to the Legion's attacks. It's actually possible to convince Lanius, the opposing commander, to back down on the basis that the defenses before him have been placed so incompetently and the battle so easy that it has to be a trap, like with Joshua years earlier. It's not a trap; Oliver's just that dumb. In a minor twist, some of the decisions he gets criticized for turns out to have been the right call (for example, pulling the Rangers from the overlooking ridge, where they'd be most useful… if not for that the Legion also realized that and was trying to get artillery specifically to strike at the Rangers they expected to be on the ridge).
    • While infamous as The Dreaded to both the Legion and NCR, Joshua Graham was stated to be neither tactically flexible nor strategically brilliant, and by his own admission is not one for logistics, who mostly got by because he was a One-Man Army who mostly faced off against tribals and raiders. When up against actual tacticians like Hanlon leading a sizable and more technologically advanced force, he ends up charging his army into a Defensive Feint Trap.
    • The other Legate, Lanius, isn't exactly the best of generals either. Joshua himself says he's not interested in leading anyone except in battle, and true enough, he's a fairly decent tactician in the middle of an actual fight. In terms of strategy, however, he has no idea what he's doing but keeps on charging anyways because his endless thirst for blood keeps him going, and he's far too brutal on both his legion and everyone else to really command an army for any length of time beyond the first battle. The Legion will collapse if he's left in charge, by a combination of mismanagement, bad logistics, taking his own mistakes out on his legionnaires and him constantly picking fights he can only win Pyrrhically, or not at all (he is the only one stupid enough to think he can and should pick a fight with the Boomers, for example, and will take absurd casualties wiping them out). He's not a complete moron, though - it's entirely possible to talk him into walking away at the end of the game by pointing out how much damage his forces will suffer even if he wins, convincing him fighting further will destroy his image; his ego is so gigantic, however, that it takes Speech or Barter 100 to make this work.
    • Father Elijah, the former Elder of the Mojave chapter of the Brotherhood of Steel, ordered his chapter to hold a power plant against the NCR, despite being vastly outnumbered, simply for the sole purpose of trying to find a hidden superweapon of some sort. His tactical incompetence is primarily because he was not trained as a Knight or Paladin (being a Scribe who was promoted for his technological genius) and because he was also a Control Freak with no regard for human life.
    • His successor, Elder McNamara, isn't much of an improvement, keeping the Brotherhood's bunker locked down after the aforementioned disastrous battle Elijah got them into. His rigid insistence on following outdated protocols means that most of the Brotherhood's troops have never seen real combat, their numbers are dwindling with no new blood being brought in, and there are only a handful of Brotherhood members allowed outside. All but four of the members outside the bunker (three scouts and a black-sheep member of the order that you can recruit as a companion) wind up dead by the time you find them. His second-in-command recognizes these issues and wants to relieve him of command as a result.
  • When he still had an army, Kratos from the God of War series. His primary method of spreading the glory of Sparta is by slaughtering cities and ends up nearly dying and losing most of that army because he faced off against a numerically superior foe in open terrain, which is especially ironic given the primary source of Spartan combat fame. How does he save the day? Selling his soul to Ares and letting the actual god of war win the fight for him. Luckily, he's wised up by the time he commands the armies of Ragnarok in God of War Ragnarök.
  • Vice-Admiral Arthur Norbank in Nexus: The Jupiter Incident. The guy is a smug jerk who constantly puts you down as an amateur despite your numerous victories against the Gorgs, while he constantly experiences spectacular failures that result in many experienced men dying. He constantly disregards intel gathered by agents (especially Ghosts) and then blames them when things turn sour. The guy's most famous victory against the Gorgs was mostly due to the element of surprise, as the Gorgs were expecting to fight the Vardrags and have never even seen a human before. His officers call him "the Rhino" behind his back due to his complete reliance on direct frontal attacks and apparent ignorance of any other tactics. Despite losing his flagship many times, Norbank always seems to survive. Luckily, in one of the later missions, you have the option of not saving him from a derelict ship without being penalized in any way.
  • Tazar in Last Scenario is an unpleasant combination of this and Armchair Military. It's eventually lampshaded that he never wins a battle, and the closest he comes to a dignified loss is by switching sides to the enemy.
  • Dragon Age: Origins toys with this trope with Loghain, who in the backstory ran a successful guerrilla campaign against an occupying army and forced them out. However, his grand plan for stopping The Horde is a simple flanking maneuver that doesn't work on creatures that they're facing (who will never break and run, who have no regard for their own losses, and who can only be defeated entirely by killing their commander who hadn't even been sighted) and involves putting the king and all of their most valuable men on the front lines (Loghain repeatedly protested the king's presence on the field, but he insisted). However, he doesn't know any of this, which leads to the battle being a horrendous loss and kicks off the main plot of the story. Whether this was an intentional Uriah Gambit to seize power or a tactical withdrawal to preserve his remaining forces after he saw the situation was hopeless is still debated both in and out of universe.
  • Halo:
    • The High Prophet of Regret is a particularly good example of this, though some of this comes from him being continually outmatched by his colleague the High Prophet of Truth. To a lesser degree, the Expanded Universe shows that the Prophets as a whole often tend to impede the operations of the Covenant due to their politicking, their tendency to meddle in military affairs, and their religious edicts discouraging intellectual and scientific curiosity. Hell, humanity would have never won if it hadn't been for Truth's overly hasty last-minute betrayal of the Elites.
    • In Halo 4, Captain Del Rio is presented as one, with Cortana and the Master Chief repeatedly questioning his tactical decisions, starting even before they meet the guy. When the Chief straight-up ignores Del Rio's orders right to his face, the entire ship's crew, including his first officer, ignores their captain's orders to arrest him, provide him with a Pelican for his mission and salute him as John-117 undertakes what is officially a mutiny. As an added insult, when the Infinity makes it back to Earth, Del Rio ends up being gulaged by Command for picking a fight with a war hero and letting the Didact reach Earth.
  • The mobile game Great Little War Game and its sequel Great Big War Game prominently feature Generalissimo, your superior. A typical Glory Seeker, as long as it's not his own life on the line. The campaign starts with him ordering you to invade a nearby nation because he wants a war. Naturally, you are the one who does all the commanding. Generalissimo's stupid decisions are the setup for our difficulties. Several times you have to keep Generalissimo alive. The sequel ups his status as this trope by him promoting an attractive woman to the rank of captain, even though it's clear she has no idea what command is. Several missions consist of surviving until you collect a certain amount of money so that Generalissimo can buy a super-expensive gift for her (e.g. a diamond-studded bulletproof vest). Given the nature of the game, all of this is Played for Laughs.
  • Dawn of War:
    • Indrick Boreale from the Soulstorm expansion. It's hinted at in the manual that he's actually a very, VERY skilled commander... At the level of a tactical squad or three, maybe even a small battle force. When put in charge of the taking of a planet with seven different known enemy armies (two of which are members of the Imperium itself) and an eighth they presumably don't even know is around, The Peter Principle rears its head and his tactics boil down to Attack! Attack! Attack!. This works out extremely well when running the Space Marine campaign, but not so much in any other; his concept of "defense" is to use the Steel Rain deployment, namely keeping everyone in his army within the orbital ships and using drop pods to deploy directly into combat. Again, fantastic for offensive missions, but suicide when on the defensive, especially when he never deploys more than a few men or a vehicle or two at a time instead of dropping the entire Chapter on the enemy's heads at the start, because he constantly underestimates the enemy besieging his base until it's too late. He finally resorts to ordering an orbital bombardment in the middle of his own base because you've broken through the miserably thin static defenses.
    • This has plot ramifications for later entries in the series. It's little wonder (among other reasons) that Soulstorm is, along with Winter Assault, the only Dawn Of War campaign that the Space Marines didn't canonically win. Much later it was revealed that the Orks under Gorgutz won. This is even more of an insult to Boreale because, despite Gorgutz easily being one of the smartest Ork leaders ever, he's still an Ork, the one race nobody expects to win via smarts. And he had to outsmart a Space Marine to do that. In Dawn of War II, Scout Marine Cyrus speaks of the Kauravan Campaign and Commander Boreale with incredible scorn, regarding it as a mistake by the Chapter, and Boreale's obvious incompetence is even one of the reasons Cyrus potentially becomes a traitor in Chaos Rising.
  • It's possible to have this sort of Admiral in Sword of the Stars II: Poor stats combine with a negative trait to disadvantage any fleet (s)he leads.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert: Field Marshal Radik Gradenko, although an outstanding strategist and security expert, made a number of mistakes at the beginning of the European war which included the loss of much of the USSR's stockpiles of nerve gas, a critical element in Stalin's original plans. Stalin also blamed him for his failures in pacifying civilian resistance, and for Albert Einstein's escape. Being drinking buddies with Stalin is likely how he got, and is able to maintain, his position. The final straw is his sloppy security of the Iron Curtain project that allows the Allies to capture sensitive material, forcing you to eliminate the liability. Nadia punishes him for the latter with her signature poisoned tea.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2: General Vladimir, the incompetent glory hound who's your superior in the first half of the Soviet campaign. He gets you into trouble in the second mission by assaulting the vastly superior American fleet with only his personal command ship, and then leaving you to deal with them as he flees the battle. Then when you have completed the destruction of the U.S. East Coast fleet, he takes credit for your accomplishments by returning to Moscow before you can. His one saving grace is being savvy enough to see through The Starscream Yuri, but it feels rewarding when you finally remove him from command.
    • He's also this in the Allied Campaign. After you foil his schemes in Chicago he nukes the city in a show of might (read: petty spite) —and yes, his own forces were still in the city when he did that. This would turn into a strategic disaster for the Soviets as it would provoke the rest of the Allies into action. See, the Soviets had set up Missile Silos close to the border as a threat to keep the Europeans out of the war. The thing about nuclear threats, though, is they only work if the other guy still believes you're rational enough not to pull the trigger. Thanks to Vladimir, the Europeans decided that not getting involved was no longer an option. One Commando raid later, and the tide of the war started to turn.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3:
    • Vladimir's successor General Krukov is less incompetent, but makes up for it with his incredible ego and willingness to throw the Player Character under the bus for the most minor setbacks, even (especially) when it isn't your fault. He is eventually framed for treason and the player kills him (the real traitor is Premier Cherdenko himself), but nobody cares because they want him dead anyway.
    • On the Imperial side of things, Emperor Yoshiro is entirely too focused on his bushido traditions and code and seems entirely unaware of how much of his military success relies on his son, Prince Tatsu, who is more supportive of the Empire's super-high-tech R&D division. The Emperor also gravely underestimates how treacherous the Allies and Soviets can be. His biggest failure seems to be his inability to realize that breaking the military strength of the Allies and Soviets would be far more effective than trying to break their spirit by demolishing statues and cultural sites (tellingly, he thinks Pearl Harbor is safe from attack because it holds many Imperial monuments). However, unusually, Yoshiro realizes how unsuited his methods are after learning the Empire's existence is due to Time Travel rather than divine destiny and eventually reconciles with Tatsu, allowing the younger man to lead the Empire to victory.
  • Red Dead Redemption II: Dutch van der Linde always has a plan... but he seems not to care that they're all terrible ones. His biggest failings are that he never considers that his targets might figure him out or act in an unexpected way, he refuses to abandon plans even if the situation changes or he realizes he was working on a faulty premise, and even when his plans do succeed, they never take into account what victory would mean for the gang.
  • Transformers: Fall of Cybertron has this in the form of Starscream. After Megatron is pounded into slag by the mighty Metroplex, Starscream immediately assumes leadership of the Decepticons (like you expected anything else). From there, a plan to steal Energon from the Autobots goes horribly awry when he attacks the transport lugging the Energon with a force consisting solely of aircraft when the majority of onboard weapons is anti-air batteries. The Combaticons warn him about this, but he doesn't listen until it's too late.
    • It gets better. The Combaticons are able to salvage the operation to steal the energon, managing to secure (read: prevent the loss of) half the load of energon. But to do this they had to ignore Starscream's order to retreat. How does Starscream react to this miracle his side desperately needs? He arrests the Combaticons for treason. Of course then Megatron returns...
  • Azmodan in Diablo III is claimed to be one of the finest battlefield commanders in Hell, yet during the game's third act his plans are ruined by a lone hero (who is, admittedly, a One-Man Army) and his only response is "send all my forces at the hero and hope they get crushed by sheer numbers". The only instance when he shows anything resembling advanced tactics is when he attempts a sneak attack on a keep by burrowing his forces through the foundations... which he then screws up by sending the hero a telepathic message, gloating about his impending victory.
    • This is downplayed slightly when you look closely at what his forces do during the battle. Using winged mooks to take out archers and other key targets with ambush tactics, scattered siege weapons to make catapult fire less effective, and giant demons used as living siege towers. The only reason he falls under this trope is that he let his pride get the better of him.
  • Stronghold:
    • The Rat, formally known as Duc de Puce, is a prime example. One of the five main antagonists of the game, Duc de Puce fancies himself as an imperial conqueror, forging his mighty empire throughout the remnants of the player's father's kingdom. Born into nobility, he is extremely arrogant and extremely sure of himself and his troops, and is unafraid to use dirty tricks and scheming to win the day... Except he never wins the day. He's also an extremely cowardly, easily-panicked, grovelling wimp with no semblance of actual tactical or strategic skill. How he got accepted into the ranks of his much more intimidating and competent allies, and how his troops even obey his often-suicidal orders, is a complete mystery, which the best theory being "because The Snake sees a useful pawn in him". He's actually somewhat aware of this himself; after his first few attacks fail (one only because The Snake double-crossed him) he decides to reinforce his own strongholds and call for aid from his "allies", only for them to refuse and intimidate him into wasting so many men in futile attacks that his own castle is left critically undermanned in his last stand.
    • Another one of the enemies of Stronghold, Duc Truffle, "The Pig", is a less-notable example. While he has a love of combat and violence and is not at all cowardly, he's an incredibly dimwitted glutton and usually lets his commanders and the other Ducs do the thinking for him. What he does have is lots of money, lots of food, and a very well-fed, well-trained army that relies solely on brute force and numerical superiority to accomplish its objectives.
  • The Taiidan Emperor of Homeworld truly lives up to this title. Characterized by his extraordinary corruption and paranoia, the Emperor maintained law and order over his people across the galaxy through sheer military might, resorting to brutal and insane tactics to put down anything he perceived as a threat to his own power in the Empire, which only sowed dissent among his people who grew disillusioned with the regime. When informed that the descendants of the defeated Hiigaran Empire, the Kushan, had established hyperspace technology and intended to seek out their former homeworld which now serves as the seat of Imperial power, the Emperor brazenly launches a major assault on the Kushan's home planet to ensure the destruction of their race. He then boasts of the fleet's success to the Empire, which instead triggers a determined rebellion within the Taiidan ranks against their leaders, in turn fueling the Kushan Fleet's fight against the Empire. Subsequent efforts to massacre sympathizers of the rebellion along with the peaceful Bentusi who aided the Kushan quickly turns the entire galaxy against the Emperor, all while his many fleets face a series of devastating defeats at the hands of the Kushan and their rebel allies. Ultimately, his own paranoia serves to unravel his empire as his actions trigger a brief but massive war that sees the destruction of his armada and ultimately himself as he oversees the Empire's last stand, leading to the dissolution of the old regime and his enemy's reclamation of their long-lost world.
  • Saints Row: The Third: Commander Cyrus Temple is theoretically a good officer, but as head of STAG, a military organization dedicated to combatting gang violence he's an utter disaster. The Deckers infiltrate his bases and steal his tech and the Luchadores are able to go one-on-one with STAG and come close to beating them. The only reason that Morningstar doesn't do anything serious to STAG is that the Saints have already beaten Morningstar to a pulp by the time STAG shows up in Steelport. And the Saints utterly thrash him and his forces, to the point of being able to destroy STAG bases and even a flying aircraft carrier while stealing access to STAG weapon tech.
  • General Damon from Valkyria Chronicles does nothing but repeatedly create messes that the game's protagonists must fix when Gallia is invaded by The Empire. Many times throughout the story, the general gets called out time and again for having the militia clean up the messes he created, or being used as scapegoats, and do the hard work that the army could very easily overpower through numbers. How he managed to get his position is eventually explained in Valkyria Chronicles 4; pretty much every Gallian who wants to actually fight is doing so under a foreign flag by the time Gallia is actually invaded, leaving the politically-motivated top brass are suddenly risking actual lives, highlighting existing problems with the system. Damon's behavior in particular is cited as a motivating factor for the Gallian rebels in the second game.
  • Warchief Grom Hellscream in World of Warcraft never shows any real tactics beyond Zerg Rush and calling his opponents cowards as he flees to his final stronghold. Notably, by the end of the first patch of Warlords of Draenor, Gul'dan calls him out on promising conquest but bringing only failure, having lost almost all of his lieutenants and most of his forces in general, before overthrowing Grom.
  • Star Trek Online: Captain Kagran of the Klingon Defense Force is placed in charge of the allied fleet during the Iconian War and claims a moral victory in "House Pegh" (where all his vaunted elite unit actually achieved was to slightly wound an Iconian and get Emperor Kahless killed), then attempts to Zerg Rush the 1.4 AU-diameter Dyson Sphere where the Iconians base their millions-strong fleet.
  • Nintendo Wars:
    • In the first Game Boy Advance Advance Wars game, your first opposing CO, Olaf, is prone to grandiose plans, thinking a rousing speech is a suitable response to serious tactical disadvantages, and forcing his soldiers forward for glory, completely disregarding the strength and skill of his opponents. Fortunately, he greatly improves by the second game (When you get to play as him in the main campaign) where he's gruff and a bit arrogant, but not nearly so self-destructive.
    • Later on in the first game, you also challenge the Yellow Comet CO Kanbei, who can be even worse, blustering forward hopped up on his own confidence. One mission is even named 'Kanbei's Error?' where he barely listens to his much more intelligent daughter's advice on capturing bases to produce units and ends up starting with a completely useless base stuck on an island with no ports or beachesnote . Similar to Olaf above, he becomes much more competent by the second game when you play as him. While one mission still involves him charging forward into an ambush to stop the enemy from capturing some cities of little strategic value, he admits he knows it's an ambush, but that he cannot abandon his people, no matter how efficient it may be to ignore them.
    • With Olaf and Kanbei smartening up by the second game, the new General Failure becomes the Black Hole CO Flak, who loudly announces his tactics (often by shouting them across the battlefield) and has little in those tactics besides Zerg Rush and slamming his biggest units into everything in their way.
    • Greyfield in Days of Ruin is The Neidermeyer par excellence. He micromanages his commanders, adding unnecessary and obstructive objectives, and will give orders that are either impossible or morally repugnant. Declaring that his troops must be the pinnacle of health and power, he orders the execution of any soldier that shows signs of being infected by the deadly plague sweeping the land. This, of course, leads to the soldiers hiding the fact that they're infected, causing the virus to spread unchecked and decimate his forces.
  • Sir Daniel Fortesque of Medievil. A knight who gained a prominent position in the royal court of Gallowmere by lying about grand feats of valour he never actually performed, and ended up leading the kingdom's army when the evil necromancer Zarok arose to ravage the land. He was the first casualty of the entire battle, killed ignominiously via arrow-induced Eye Scream, and his second-in-command, a mere boy, had to take over and win the battle for him. The King cooked up a story about how Daniel died performing a noble Heroic Sacrifice and hastily buried him to try and save face. A century later Zarok rises again and Dan, sans his flesh, has to bring him down and this time earn his place as a great hero.
  • During her time as an Arc Villain in Fate/Grand Order, Jeanne d'Arc Alter decided to burn down all of France with an army of dragons backed up by a team of strong Servants. However, she's so callous and needlessly cruel For the Evulz that most of her plans end up self-sabotaging, and she fritters away most of her advantages at an alarming rate. Especially noteworthy is her attempt to juice up her Servants on Mad Enhancement, which turned them all into crazed warriors that could barely work together or follow orders and actually weakened some of them. Later appearances by her realized the above and decided to just run with the interpretation of her as a loudmouthed and dimwitted Harmless Villain.
    • Yu Mei-ren, in her guise as Akuta Hinako, is shown to be a terrible strategist incapable of competently commanding others due to her misanthropic nature not translating well when forced to work with others. In her Interlude where she attempts to act in the role of a Master by commanding the same story Servants that helped the player defeat her in Lostbelt 3 her terrible command takes the form of mild buffs coupled with debuffs and afterwards said servants bluntly tell her that she's a terrible tactician.
  • General Commodus from Ryse: Son of Rome is the son of Emperor Nero, and in charge of Rome's military operations in Britannia. But when Player Character Marius Titus first meets him, his army was routed by the Britons, and Commodus himself was taken captive and given to the violent Picts north of Hadrian's Wall to be burnt alive in a wicker man. By the time Marius reaches him, he's furiously screaming for someone to get him out of his cage. After that, Commodus shows his full endearing personality as a Dirty Coward Smug Snake when he makes the unbelievably stupid mistake of stabbing the Briton king Oswald to death right in front of his people, thereby inciting the exact barbarian uprising he was supposed to quell, then abandoning the 14th Legion to face the Britons alone. Upon returning to Rome, Commodus starts holding Gladiator Games glorifying himself and taking credit for the achievements of Marius and his Legion, purely to save his reputation as a future God-Emperor. Which makes it all the sweeter when Marius kills him in the Colosseum right in front of his father.
  • Lord Shimura of Ghost of Tsushima is so obsessed with honor that he refuses to use any tactics other than suicidal charges, which the Mongol khan (who has extensively studied the Samurai and their code/tactics) naturally takes advantage of. His adherence to said code also means that he gets deeply upset when Jin begins to rely on "dishonorable" tactics that are actually effective, ranging from stealth to poisoning enemy food supplies.
  • Valiant Hearts: The commander at the end of the Chemin des Dames level is a reckless idiot who threatens his soldiers with death unless they charge straight into enemy fire. His actions cause Emile to strike him with his shovel, killing him. Emile is later arrested and executed for this.

    Web Animation 
  • Admiral, later Emperor Pirk in Star Wreck. Only his incredible luck and keen tactical eye explain why he ever advanced beyond Ensign in his military career.
  • Blue Laser Commander in Homestar Runner's Show Within a Show Cheat Commandos is a brutal parody of Cobra Commander, with his plans having included building a secret headquarters in his nana's backyard and somehow concluding that mildew in the shower was the only thing keeping him from conquering the world. Ironically, Blue Laser Commander's failures are attributable less to his own incompetence and more to the fact that the Cheat Commandos are generally a danger to themselves and everything else. He's such a Harmless Villain that they invite him over for Thanksgiving celebrations and videogames.
  • Sarge from Red vs. Blue progressively becomes more and more like this as the series progresses, eventually overruling his subordinates' more rational ideas in favor of his own ones based on Mad Science — for example, suggesting the use of radiation-induced strength to lift an object where using a jack would be just as appropriate (and more readily available).
  • Captain, who leads the titular pirates of Lego Pirate Misadventures either botches everything on his first attempt or will momentarily succeed, only to have everything go bad again. This applies double if whatever he's attempting is in any way nautical, such as when he got lost at sea for two years because he failed to notice his compass was malfunctioning.
  • RWBY:
    • This is how the Faunus War ended. The war was going well for the humans, and General Lagune decided to end it with a decisive victory through a swift night attack on the Faunus forces. Due to his own Fantastic Racism, he was completely unaware that the Faunus all have Innate Night Vision. His massive army was quickly routed, allowing the Faunus to win not only the day but ultimately the war. Now, he is remembered as nothing but a failure, used as an example of why battlefield intelligence is vital.
    • As a warrior, Adam Taurus is a force to be reckoned with. As a leader, he's probably the worst thing that's ever happened to the White Fang; he's hot-tempered, spiteful and petty, with his growing mental instability leading him to make increasingly stupid moves: on top of pushing away valuable allies like Hazel out of petty pride and bigotry, the supremely boneheaded decision to put a hit out on Blake's parents to hurt her and subsequent failure of said assassination attempt, which Blake uses to rally all of Menagerie against him, was just the tip of the iceberg. When cornered at Haven, Adam attempts to blow himself and his troops up with everyone else instead of risk trying to fight his way out, and after his troops are defeated, he runs away and abandons them to their fate. And to top it all, when Adam returns to the White Fang base and is rightfully roasted by the remaining troops over him deserting his men and his inability to get over Blake, Adam flies into a rage and slaughters them all.
    • Caroline Cordovin of the Atlas base in Argus. As arrogant as she is tiny, she believes she was stationed in Argus due to her "wit and tenacity", but in reality, it was because her superiors in Atlas thought she was annoying and wanted her away from their kingdom. She refuses to let the heroes through solely because they're not from Atlas, without bothering to listen to their reasons. When Team RRAYNBOW resorts to stealing a ship and Maria Calavera taunts her, Cordoven becomes so enraged that instead of following procedure and launching her own fighters, she takes a Humongous Mecha meant for fighting giant Grimm and attacks RRAYNBOW personally- and loses, despite having a clear technological advantage. What's more, her psychotic grandstanding ends up causing a spike in negativity from the locals which spurs a mass Grimm attack on the city.
    • A played with and tragic case for James Ironwood. When he first appears, he is a genuine force of good, and even when his blind spots are taken advantage of, he still manages to get back up and fight for the sake of others. After the Fall of Beacon, however, Ironwood begins burning the candle on both ends and slowly loses his mind. He grows paranoid, shell-shocked, and controlling, and he becomes obsessed with outward displays of strength. Combined with his refusal to admit error, by the end of Volume 7, he has become a shadow of the man he once was, now continually making poor decisions that only blow up in his face and hand the villains victories, just as Salem desires. All of his actions in Volume 8 ultimately do nothing but impede the heroes' own efforts, as well as cause what little supporters he has remaining to turn on him. By the end, Atlas has fallen as a result of his own actions, he is all alone, and he dies forced to see that everything he did was All for Nothing. It's especially tragic since during the Hope Spots in Volume 7 when the heroes are able to get through to him, he shows that he very much still has the capacity to be an effective leader if his head is on straight and he trusts his allies, effortlessly arranging for Tyrian and Watts' capture before Cinder and Salem reignite his paranoia.
    • Cinder Fall is another played with example. When her head is on straight, she is a legitimately cunning strategist who carries out the plan for the Fall of Beacon nigh-flawlessly, with only Ruby's Silver Eyes, a factor she had no way of knowing about, preventing her total victory. After Volume 3 however, she shows herself to be... less than competent, falling for a blatantly obvious trap that her co-conspirator Watts points out to her in Volume 5 out of sheer ego and power lust, leading to her suffering a humiliating defeat at Raven Branwen's hands. Her ambitions to acquire the Winter Maiden's powers over Volume 7 & 8 then continuously fail due to her refusal to learn from such mistakes, gloating to Fria and giving her time to gather herself and fight her off instead of just taking her powers, losing a battle to Penny at Amity Tower due to not bothering to remember that Emerald's semblance is Hallucinations and doesn't work on machines. However, once Watts stops holding back his critiques and lets loose with a full-on "The Reason You Suck" Speech, she adapts masterfully. Cinder disrupts the evacuation of Atlas and Mantle, shutting down the heroes' attempts to give directions before claiming the Staff of Creation from them and knocking five of them into the Void Between Worlds. She fails to claim the Winter Maiden powers, but they were, for once, not her primary goal. However, she does take the time to kill Neo and Watts, showing that she hasn't completely returned to her Beacon Saga days. To be fair, Watts' role in Salem's plan was mostly over, and Neo was an extremely tenuous ally at best, often disobeying Cinder and previously displaying a desire to kill her.

    Web Comics 
  • Fire Emblem Heroes: A Day in the Life: While the Summoner supposedly serves purpose among the Order of Heroes as The Strategist, it's a Running Gag in the comic that they're actually a really terrible tactician:
    • In Chapter 3, despite Soren pointing out his clear fatigue, the Summoner keeps abusing Ike because he's currently a bonus character in the ongoing Tempest Trial.
    • In Chapter 19, the Summoner commands their team to take advantage of mechanics that have appeared throughout the Fire Emblem series... only for the team to quip that they can't, as the mechanics they mention aren't present in Fire Emblem Heroes. After Gray points out that evasion doesn't exist in Heroes, the Summoner even mentions that they "only managed to clear the previous game thanks to luck and evasion!"
      Summoner: Get into the woods to boost your evasion!
      Gray: This is Heroes! There is no evasion!
      Summoner: Uh, pair up?
      Lissa: That's in Awakening!
      Summoner: Capture?
      Cain: That's Thracia!
      Summoner: Dragon vein?
      Leo: That's Fates!
    • In Chapter 25, Alfonse points out that the Summoner hasn't given any of their units support skills, and accuses them of not knowing how to use them. The Summoner can only raise one counter-example in their defense: using shove to force Draug forward through a cramped hallway.
    • In Chapter 26, the Summoner summons Robin, Chrom's legendary tactician, who spends the entire rest of the chapter silently judging the Summoner's poor tactical decisions.
    • This comes to a head in Chapter 41, where the series' best strategists — Saias, Soren, and (female) Robin — are gathered together for a planning meeting (even Katarina's there, in the back taking notes). The Summoner finds themself completely irrelevant in the face of these legendary tacticians, and is told in no uncertain terms to shut up and let them do the planning.
    • "The Absolute Strongest" has the Summoner trying to find the best synergy for their team and, after having a minor meltdown, promptly gives up and delegates all the fighting to be done by the one overpowered Lance Fighter from a certain Tactics Drills map in the group's place. Nah isn't impressed.
      Nah: Come up with an actual strategy. Please.
  • Schlock Mercenary: While everyone shown is reasonably competent (it's a military story, so if they weren't competent they'd be dead), Petey makes them all look like idiots.
    Petey: I know you want to keep it all to yourself, but that will eventually result in a net loss, and that's before adding in the massive loss of life.
    Admiral: We have tactical projections that suggest otherwise.
    Petey: I have tactical projections. You have wishful thinking, an abacus, and some space-meeples.

    Web Original 
  • The Jenkinsverse: Basically all aliens. Most species in the galaxy have no real understanding of how to fight at any scale. Since they come from paradisaical worlds, they're mostly non-violent herbivores, and while they are perfectly willing to go to war when the situation calls for it, they simply aren't very good. They have no understanding of simple tactics like flanking and deception, no understanding of higher weapon technology like missiles and combat drones, and have difficulty adapting quickly to sudden changes on the battlefield. No one even uses explosives for combat in any form, just for mining. Humans, who come from a Death World, have a much better understanding of war than anyone else. Even Jen Delaney, who was a bored IT tech on Earth, becomes famous for brilliant tactics that are little more than "keep your eyes open and watch each other's backs."
    Jen: How did space even work before we got here?
  • Applies to The Salvation War during the Curbstomp War of 2008; there's several cases of daemon generals who just don't get it. It doesn't help that the human militaries are actively attempting to deny them, but their mistakes compound the inevitable and turn mere defeats or could-have-been-surrenders into massacres.
  • Wolfgang Henrich at the German side, in the Chaos Timeline's World War II.
  • Kismet, leader of the Vindicators in the Whateley Universe. Despite the personnel on the team, she consistently gets bad results because no one on the team wants to (or can) work with her, and her plans stink. The one time she managed to get herself blasted unconscious at the start of the simulation, her teammates came up with a new plan, executed it flawlessly, and won.
  • Every army seems to have a couple of these in The Solstice War. On the Ayvartan side, Major Gowon uses the army to do his chores and the country gets invaded on his watch, while several unnamed officers are slaughtered in the battle for Knyskna. On the Nocht side, Von Sturm is a pretty dubious leader, and Colonel General Ferdinand cares more about his shares in tank-producing companies than winning battles.
  • Corvatz in Sword Art Online Abridged. Leads his exhausted and demoralized party into a Boss room, leading to a nearly total party kill once it becomes too hard to handle.

    Web Videos 
  • The Nostalgia Critic becomes this in Kickassia. He only manages to take over Molossia using Phelous's ideas, then sits around watching TV while the other reviewers actually put effort into running the country. The ideas he steals aren't even particularly cunning, but rather stuff like "we should use weapons".
  • Achievement Hunter
  • The Great War presents most of the top generals who directed World War I as this, on all sides, most of whom were attempting to fight a war using battle tactics that were horribly outdated and plans that were shockingly optimistic. The show's favourite punching bags are Austro-Hungarian Commander Oscar Potiorek and Chief of Staff Conrad von Hötzendorf and Italian Chief of Staff Luigi Cardona, though they are not, by any stretch of the imagination, the only ones to get called out for this.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama has Zapp Brannigan, one of the most iconic modern examples of this trope. Despite being the head of Earth's military, he's lost countless battles in the show, including getting flattened easily by the Brain Balls, the Omicronians, the Decapodians, the Nudists, and in one particularly pathetic instance, a tribe of Neanderthals. He's a Dirty Coward, a proud member of the Armchair Military, and largely hated by his men, even aside from being a complete moron. His battle tactics are consistently either "throw wave after wave of my men at it" or absolutely ludicrous gambits typified by faux-clever sayings along the lines of "In the game of chess, you can never let your adversary see your pieces." Nonetheless, he remains highly-regarded in-universe by most people aside from the protagonists, since he tends to either take credit for the deeds of others or manage offscreen victories against foes like the Retiree People of the Assisted Living Nebula.
  • In Justice League Unlimited, Gorilla Grodd takes control of the rag-tag band of villains who've organized themselves. They commit daring crimes under his leadership, to support his ultimate plan... which turns out to be turning the entire population of the world into apes. Lex Luthor's response is to shoot him. After Luthor is given the Klingon Promotion, Sinestro sarcastically suggests to Luthor that he should make the world go bald for their next evil scheme. This is a Shout-Out to the Silver Age, where comic book villains were fond of grandiose, nonsensical schemes for altering the world to their liking. Grodd was portrayed as a competent leader, except for the whole "turn the world into apes" thing.
  • Lampshaded in Care Bears: Adventures in Care-a-Lot, in which Grizzle's own robot assistant UR-2 informs him that his frequent failures are mainly his own fault (considering that Grizzle frequently "talks" to an inanimate "robot" named Mr. Beaks, it's not hard to see why).
  • Megatron in Transformers: Generation 1. To be fair, he was often also Surrounded by Idiots, but we're talking about a bad guy who was once defeated by a can of spray paint. And then there's his willingness to keep Starscream around, even though not only was Starscream a traitor but an idiot as well. This is lampshaded in the Marvel Comics version where after Starscream pulls the inevitable backstab. Megatron asks himself why he brought Starscream back to life:
    Megatron: Why? That's what they all asked me. Why him... why Starscream? Why, of all Decepticons, did I decide to revitalize the one whose record of deceit and betrayal is legend? Because I'm an idiot, that's why!
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Commander/Admiral Zhao Zig Zags this trope. At first sight, he seems utterly terrible at his job: He gets tricked into burning down his own river boats by Aang, Zuko manages to be hotter on Aangs' tail despite having significantly less resources, and his final plan for victory over the Water Tribe boils down to killing the Spirit in charge of the natural balance of the ocean, which would have disastrous long-term consequences for the entire world, Fire Nation included. Yet, for all his seeming incompetence, he does repeatedly prove to be a genuinely capable tactician: He correctly assesses that the Yuyan Archers' talents are wasted guarding a local fortress and successfully outsources them to capture Aang- the only time the Fire Nation ever gets their hands on Aang outside of the pilot, easily sees through a fairly clever gambit from Zuko to get him off his tail during a maritime chase, and his actual invasion of the Northern Water Tribe goes rather smoothly (the Ocean Spirit is deep into the Water Tribe inner sanctum, and Zhao successfully forced himself all the way there. Zhao's problem isn't that he isn't smart or competent, but rather that his ego and anger override his better judgement, making decisions that seem good in the short term but sabotage him in the long run.
  • Invader Zim has only one soldier under his command — Zim himself — but his plans and general behavior are bang on target with this trope. Examples include:
    • The one time he was ever given command of anything, he managed to halt an entire galactic invasion singlehandedly by going on a rampage in a gigantic robot without realizing he hadn't left his home planet. Lampshaded mercilessly all the time (Zim's ego just won't let him acknowledge it), but of particular note is the episode when he manages to get GIR to stay in Duty Mode. GIR becomes competent enough to realise the primary obstacle to Zim conquering Earth is Zim himself, and subsequently tries to kill him so GIR can do it properly:
    • The episode "Hobo-13" shows that if put in the command of a group of soldiers Zim will needlessly sacrifice everyone until he alone succeeds, using them as either bridges to cross a gap (when there's a tree nearby to knock down), using others as bait and even using his last remaining soldier as a battering ram. Needless to say, the Drill Sergeant failed him so hard he got bruises. Then Zim SOMEHOW manages to beat said Drill Sergeant in combat.
  • General Specific in Sheep in the Big City. To put it bluntly, this guy can't even catch one sheep in a city where nobody likes sheep for some reason.
  • Exo Squad has Captain Marcus. All of his tactics mostly involve attacking right away with no thought of any battleplans whatsoever. Most of which end in spectacular failure. Also his complete disregard for the use of Exo-Frames in any form. This is especially telling considering the show is about a squad of E-frame pilots.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
    • Played for Drama when Pong Krell takes charge of the mission on Umbara. His first command is to order his battalion to march through hostile territory along an open road surrounded by trees, to attack a fortified city. They never make it there, because it turns out that the road was covered in landmines. When the commanding clone, Rex, orders a retreat after a withering assault, Krell threatens to remove him from command. He then follows this up by making no attempts at reconnaissance against an enemy with completely unfamiliar technology, forcing exhausted soldiers on multi-day marches, ordering valuable special forces units to the front lines, leading from the rear instead of using his Jedi powers to fight alongside them (sowing disrespect and low morale in his men in the process), making his troopers travel through a narrow gorge to attack a base defended by heavy enemy tanks and aircraft, insulting and belittling the clones with regular bigoted remarks, planning to launch a full forward assault on a city protected by long-range missiles, and court-martialing soldiers for disobeying his orders, even though their disobedience brought their side a crucial victory and saved thousands of lives. This is all 100% deliberate on his part; he's planning to defect to the Sith as soon as he gets the chance, believes delivering Umbara to the Separatists on a silver platter is his way in, and is actively sabotaging his own side to make this happen.
    • Zig-zagged by General Grievous. Although he is lauded as one of the best generals in the Separatist Alliance, this is mostly an Informed Ability as far as canon goes; in a general sense he's a fairly poor tactician, often becomes blinded by his own temper and impulsiveness, and pulls a Screw This, I'm Outta Here whenever things go marginally pear-shaped. His forays into fleet command are even less successful than his ground combat, most infamously when he fell into Anakin's trap (which crippled his flagship by hiding AT-TE walkers on an asteroid and having them fire on his ship's unshielded rear). However, Grievous does have shades of tactical brilliance both in ground and fleet command via the fact that he predicted Obi-Wan's battle plan for rescuing Eeth Koth and set an ambush for Anakin, deliberately sacrificed the frigates in his fleet so the debris carrying the Trident drill ship components could fall into Kamino's oceans (enabling him to attack the cloning facilities undetected), and successfully ambushed and wiped out Obi-Wan's fleet (destroying four cruisers and two Star Destroyers for the loss of only one frigate and a couple ships damaged at rough numerical parity). His craftiness and ruthlessness have also allowed him to use underhanded tactics to great effect. Grievous managed (on Dooku's orders) to orchestrate and successfully act out a terrorist attack on Coruscant via blowing up the Senate District's power generator, causing a massive power failure all over the planet. This stops the peace negotiations and ensures the continuation of the Clone Wars.
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero:
    • Cobra Commander, at least in the cartoons. He's prone to overconfidence, often leading to his forces getting needlessly destroyed when a tactical retreat would've been more prudent, and then afterwards blaming everyone else before himself for his mistakes. His list of accomplishments includes being defeated by a group of schoolchildren in the DiC run.
    • Serpentor, in the cartoons, is noted to be even worse at this. He can snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. To date, he has launched an armed invasion of Washington DC, crowning himself the king of a "1000 year reign" but makes absolutely zero preparations to hold on to the advantage he gained by the element of surprise and is deposed in less than an hour because he never dreamed the "gift-giving" dignitaries would carry firearms in their briefcases, having to be rescued by Cobra Commander. He leads an armed attack on the Joes' base when the command structure had been screwed over by his lieutenants but is quickly handed his backside when the Joes manage to reassert the proper chain of command. He also never has any exit strategies in place for when things start going south, often refusing to retreat until massive losses force him to do so. In fact, Cobra has to seek refuge in Cobra-La during G.I. Joe: The Movie, because Serpentor had led one crushing defeat after another until Cobra had nothing left.
  • Get Blake!: The Squallien General is a complete failure as a military commander. His tendency to dismiss Leonard's plans in favour of those of his two idiot nephews is one reason why the Squalliens have repeatedly failed to get Blake.
  • Emerald in Steven Universe is one of the highest-ranked Gems in Homeworld's hierarchy... yet she keeps getting outwitted by societal outcasts with no combat training, and she refuses to step up her game because she doesn't want to damage the ship they have in their possession.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Spitfire's inability to control her troops and needing to be reminded of basic morals by a newly recruited subordinate in "Wonderbolts Academy", along with the Wonderbolts general ineptness at their jobs, makes it quite clear she's a poor at best commander. Though initially unintentional, the scene in "The Washouts" of her unironically emulating Matt Foley complete with shaking Scootaloo by the neck to scare the kid straight (and failing miserably) make it clear the writers are acknowledging she's not nearly as good a commander as she's cracked up to be. It's revealed in Friends Forever 11 that Spitfire's only method for leading is to shout and criticize her recruits, and when she can't do that (like say, because it's a pack of kids), she has no idea how to command and completely loses her nerve. Rainbow lampshades "everypony's got a few flaws" when Spitfire expresses her regret at having this problem. She also reveals she initially didn't want to leader the Wonderbolts, because leadership sounded boring — she just found out she was good at it via her Drill Sergeant Nasty routine, and she sticks to that because it's all she knows.

Who is General Failure and why is he reading my hard drive?


Video Example(s):


Jubilation T. Cornpone

General Cornpone, heralded for such battles Cornpone's Disaster, Cornpone's Misjudgment, Cornpone's Catastrophe, and Cornpone's Humiliation.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / GeneralFailure

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