An art installation called "Lanterns of the Terracotta Warriors" stands in front of the Sydney Opera House, February 19, 2015.
David Gray / Courtesy Reuters

Owen Harries, the Welsh-born Australian editor of The National Interest, once remarked that Americans needed good peripheral vision to be able to find Australia on a map. When the country did get attention, as often as not it was either for some natural calamity (floods, bushfires, shark attacks) or else for its charms as a holiday destination.

Those days are over. Australia now figures more prominently in U.S. foreign policy than at any time since 1942–45, when Australian combat troops served under General Douglas MacArthur and scores of U.S. air and naval bases and army camps were stationed Down Under.

Australia, a

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