"Armchair general" is a derogatory term for a person who regards himself or herself as an expert on military matters, despite possessing little to no actual experience in the military.
The most common usage of the term refers to "[a] person without military experience who regards himself or herself as an expert military strategist."
This person may be a civilian whose only exposure to the military or military history is through academic or self-study, or a former member of the military, who was of low rank and/or has no experience with planning or strategic decision-making. In both cases, these individuals claim to be more capable of analyzing combat conditions and making strategic judgments than past military commanders who have been responsible for such analysis and decisions.
Examples of usage
The term is also used to describe "a military commander who is not actively involved in warfare, or who directs troops from a position of comfort or safety." These officers' duties are described by the media and the rest of the military as more bureaucratic than functional, and who have little to no experience in combat or warfare, yet hold a great degree of authority over soldiers or commanders who do.
The term is not exclusively applied to officers of command rank (such as generals or Admirals); it is also a popular term among enlisted personnel and the media to describe high-ranking officers whose rank affords them superior privileges, especially when they have attained rank through higher education, or the influence of their families, rather than combat duty.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, after enlisting in the United States Army in 1911, was assigned to the Army War College and graduated in 1928. He never served in combat, even during World War I, and held mostly administrative positions afterwards. During World War II, he was appointed Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force, in spite of never having been in combat.
- George Marshall was described as the "organizer of victory" by Winston Churchill, for his outstanding logistical and administrative skills. Like Eisenhower, he rose to general's rank despite having never led troops in combat.
- The United States' Joint Chiefs of Staff are often regarded by the media as tedious bureaucrats, since their duties are largely administrative and political; those of them who have actually served in combat may have done so years, or decades, before attaining their high rank, and so this experience is seen as of little relevance.