When Laura Bush spoke in Jordan about women's rights on Saturday, the only outburst of applause came with her praise of Kuwait. Last week, the Kuwaiti parliament granted women the vote. Otherwise, her speech received polite, but unenthusiastic, response.
That restraint reflects the checks which women face across the Middle East and North Africa. In nearly every institution of society - the criminal justice system, the economy, education, healthcare, the media - they're at a profound disadvantage.
And yet they've also made gains in the region. Since the toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan, girls can go to school. In Morocco, women pushed through changes in the Family Code, which had given men superior legal rights. And now, only Saudi Arabia denies women the vote.
The Iraq war and US mistreatment of prisoners have given American democracy a bad name in the Middle East. But by pushing for women's rights, Mrs. Bush is finding another door through which to advance freedom in the region. As women march through it, there'll be no stopping their momentum - or democracy's.