You can call it pedantic if you like, but no getting away from the fact that all things technical are pedantic by nature. Every variable has to be considered, if that's pedantic then so be it.Instead of being pedantic we could understand that the difference is liquid has the ability, by nature, to quickly and constantly move heat away from the source, whereas air coolers (you know what I'm talking about) have to use heatpipes or vapor chambers to do so (guess what, there's liquid in these). Its getting harder and harder with the increasing transistor density of CPUs especially, to do this.
On a liquid system you can add as much surface area as you want through radiators, there are no limits, assuming you have a pump strong enough, or several in series. On an air system, you are limited by the thermal conductivity of the heatpipes/vapor chambers, which decrease with more distance from the heatsource, fundamentally limiting the effective size of any air cooler heatsink. Liquid also has the ability to have a large thermal reservoir, serving as a buffer for spikes in thermal load. There's also the advantage of liquid cooling systems to directly exhaust the heat outside of the case, instead of blowing it on the other components (like RAM), or GPUs exhausting very hot air directly into the CPU cooler.
Additionally, you can position the various elements of a liquid cooling system anywhere in the case, for aesthetics or space efficiency. Air cooling forces you to have your heatsink directly on top of the heat producing element - leading to absurdities like 4 slot GPUs, or huge tower coolers forcing large case sizes.
There is a good reason almost every serious heat producing element in any part of any industry or product (cars, industrial machinery, nuclear reactors etc.) all use liquid cooling. Air can potentially be lower maintenance, but it depends on the design of the loop, air is fundamentally a lower capacity, worse cooling system. The advantages are simplicity, cost, and to a certain extent, lack of maintenance.
There is also no getting away from the fact that air is still needed to cool the radiator(s) of a given water cooling system.
What happens if you get a situation of having hot air being forced into a radiator to cool the water cooling loop via the fans? it is not going to work very well isn't it? Unless of course you have air conditioning & then we have the issue of electricity costs coming into the total cooling solution & that's another argument in itself.
So in effect the entire situation gets back to how well the ambient air temps in the space or room that the water cooling solution is placed in ultimately influences the water cooling efficiency result.