The French deserve our thanks for repelling Islamist advances in northern Mali. What they do not deserve is a Pentagon bill for the limited military support we have provided in recent days. Indeed, if it is true, as reported in the French media, that United States has withheld larger deliveries of military assistance until assured of payment, then Washington ought to be ashamed of itself.

In recent days, U.S. transport planes have begun moving French troops and equipment into Mali—two planeloads on Monday, one on Tuesday; and defense secretary Leon Panetta has assured French officials that more can be made available. But the painfully grudging American response to French appeals for help is embarrassing and unbecoming for a superpower supposedly in the vanguard of the struggle against global terrorism.

France is doing the heavy lifting in Mali, because Mali was a French colony and many Frenchmen still live there. It became clear a few weeks ago that Islamist radicals were moving into position to seize the capital city of Bamako. The pathetically inept government of Mali could do little to stop them and requested urgent assistance. The socialist French prime minister, Francois Hollande, though opposed to military intervention and besieged by economic crisis, sent planes, tanks and thousands of troops to Mali. Frenchmen were threatened, and he acted promptly and courageously.