just because something has always been a certain way doesn't mean it isn't time to evolve
Maybe, but remember this is a TBS game, not RTS. If I wanted an RTS game I'd buy one.
To me the "hands off" tactical battle resolver is an attraction. Degenerating that into a clickfest is just bad design because there are better real-time space simulator games that let you play the captain. And no, "it would be optional" isn't the answer because if the manual commands gave you an advantage then you are compelled to use them or you lose that advantage, and if they didn't give you an advantage then there's no point in having them.
The current automatic tactical battle is a much more elegant and sophisticated way of doing it. You design your ships and assign them their roles, point them towards the enemy, and let your captains loose to do or die as they may. Think of it this way: You are the commander-in-chief and that means you don't pilot the ships or make the tactical calls, nor should you. It's a different kind of challenge.
There's tons of shootemups in the market but very few good strategical simulation games.
Sure, your admirals and captains ought to have a bit more tactical sense but the solution to that is to give them more tactical sense, not handing you the helm. Mind you, I'm not even against retreat being a possible outcome of the battle. Might even be interesting. What I'm against, however, is there being a button labeled "retreat". Your admiral should be the one who calls it, not the player.
After all, he's there fighting that enemy with all the local knowledge while you are sitting in your Oval Office equivalent. Politicians messing with tactical field decisions isn't that popular with the troops so let the man do his job.