The squabble taking place between Ezra Klein and Andrew Sullivan is truly bizarre.
Roger Cohen may feel like he is a liberal hawk, and thus distinct. But what Roger Cohen feels does not matter, because Roger Cohen does not control any branch of the American military. Who he empowers, and which actors in American politics find their ideas legitimized by his columns, is all that matters. And in that, he is worse than a neoconservative. He's a liberal hawk who knows better, but whose interest in writing about his own virtue overwhelms his judgments concerning the actual actions of those who wield power. He is not a neoconservative. He is a narcissist.
According to Sullivan, this is an "attack" on "independent thought":
It's an attack on any independent thought outside of the situational demands of a political coalition. It is a full-throated and not-even-regretful support for the subjugation of free inquiry and free ideas to the demands of political organization. It makes Sidney Blumenthal seem intellectually honest...
[Cohen] has arguments to make, arguments that can be agreed with or disagreed with, but that have merits of their own that should be addressed regardless of the arrangement of political power at the time. This isn't narcissism; it is the duty of any writer and thinker to state his own views as best he can without concern for how the world might greet them, who might use them unfairly, or who might expropriate them for insincere purposes. Without this independence, a writer is merely a hack. Or, worse for a writer, an activist.
What's so strange about this argument -- which I agree with is -- is that Sullivan engaged in the same sort of reasoning as Klein after 9/11 and before the war in Iraq, a period in which he repeatedly suggested that criticism of the war on terror or war in Iraq had the effect of aiding terrorists or Saddam (he's since changed his views). For instance, he wrote that "The decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead - and may well mount what amounts to a fifth column" and called the BBC "a military player" that is "objectively pro-Saddam."
In both cases, Klein and Sullivan argued that we must divorce the (supposed) effect of a writer's words from their intent. To criticize the war effort, according to Sullivan circa 2001-2003, has the effect of aiding the enemy and is therefore illegitimate. To express a hawkish liberal view, according to Klein, has the effect of supporting George W. Bush's foreign policy and is therefore irresponsible. In each case, they are trying to silence views they dislike, though Sullivan's tactic of equating speech with treason is far more objectionable.
So when will Klein and Sullivan realize they share common ground?