In Star Trek: A Taste of Armageddon, the crew of the enterprise find themselves on a planet which claims to be in a state of war, but there are no clear signs of it. No explosions, no battered bodies, nothing.
As it turns out, the "war" is taking place on computer systems a la war games. When the computer simulation deems that an area has been "hit", all inhabitants of that area report to disintegration chambers to meet their fate.
The local inhabitants claim that this is much more civilized than the wars that used to take place, and they accept it as a part of life in their modern society. However, the war has been going on for a very long time and it continues to take millions of lives.
Captain Kirk, being an outsider, has a different perspective. He notes that the bombs of war, the destructive power of all-out real war, the fear induced by the pain and the threat of pain; these things are what make it real, and make it worth avoiding. When it's whitewashed, it's too easy to just continue on with the war.
Rewind a couple of centuries, and bop out of fiction. 21st century America has been at war for years now. It sure doesn't feel like it to me. Sure, I pay some taxes, and once in a while when I check the news I hear some vague things about US drones flying over Afghanistan or Iraq.
Drones. This is war at it's cleanest so far, at least for us Americans. We don't even have to send a real person anywhere near the place we want to bomb now. War is so cheap, so easy that we hardly even notice it happening.
How many armchair fox-news watching neocons do you think would still be pro-war if the abstraction was removed? If our guys were going over there and dying in the same numbers as we're killing with our drones?
Or God forbid if we were being bombed by Afghani drones? How long would that situation last?
Perhaps we need some visitors from outer space to come break their prime directive and set us straight :).