You can agree with Cotton’s position, or you can disagree with it. But the New York Times was right to publish the thoughts of a United States senator who is actively shaping the federal government’s response to the current conflict. Cotton’s opinion might very well become policy, and the American public deserves to know why.

This is why editorial pages exist. Written opinions are supposed to inform, challenge, and (hopefully) persuade readers while at the same time bolstering the democratic values — the right to a free press and the necessity of democratic debate — upon which our system of governance depends. The New York Times opinion pages should not merely confirm their readers’ worldview, nor do they exist to appease the preconceived opinions of its staffers. The op-ed page, in fact, was specifically created to offer a range of opinions that may differ from the institutional editorial position.