In reviewing dozens of speeches delivered by former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) over the past several years, one common theme emerges: he has very little interest in defense policy, and a great deal of interest in international diplomacy.

Indeed, Hagel has spoken about military affairs so rarely–except to suggest the limits of U.S. military power–that it is unclear why he would be interested in the position of Secretary of Defense at all.

When Hagel does speak about U.S. defense policy, he seems out of his depth. He denounced the “surge” of U.S. troops in Iraq, for instance, and predicted its failure; ultimately, the surge proved critical in defeating Al Qaeda in Iraq and enabling the withdrawal for which President Barack Obama now takes political credit (though even that withdrawal proceeded under an agreement concluded by George W. Bush).