A generation of scholars has depicted the premiership of Labor Party leader Gough Whitlam as a watershed in Australian foreign policy. According to the prevailing consensus, Whitlam carved out a more independent and progressive role in international affairs without significantly endangering relations with Western-aligned states in East and Southeast Asia or with Australia's traditionally closest allies, the United States and the United Kingdom. This article takes issue with these views and offers a more skeptical assessment of Whitlam's diplomacy and questions his handling of Australia's alliance with the United States. In doing so, it shows that Whitlam, in his eagerness to embrace détente, reject containment, and project an image of an allegedly more progressive and independent Australia, in fact exacerbated tensions with Richard Nixon's Republican administration and caused disquiet among Southeast Asian countries that were aligned with or at least friendly toward the West.

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