The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were both necessary and wise. The Clinton administration had mistakenly prioritized diplomacy over military action in its dealings with terrorists and their sponsors. Neither the 1993 World Trade Center attack nor Osama bin Laden's 1996 declaration of war on America led President Clinton to order reprisals. Al-Qaeda interpreted White House inaction as weakness and was encouraged to carry out further attacks, culminating with 9/11.
Liberals and libertarians may vilify President Bush and Vice President Cheney, but dictators and terrorists now think twice about attacking the United States. Killing Americans again has a cost.
No one should question the value of liberating 24 million Iraqis and nearly as many Afghans. They may not instantly become free but, as with President Truman's involvement in Korea, historians will recognize a wisdom that contemporaries did not. Bush deserves some credit for the Arab Spring as well. Arabs may have been critical of some U.S. actions, but Bush succeeded in changing the conversation: Arab publics began to discuss the meaning of democracy, accountability, and their achievement.
Still, it remains up to President Obama and the American public to confirm the value of the wars. Obama seems determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, walking away from Iraq and promising a similar abandonment of Afghanistan, with little more than rhetorical support for the continued relationships upon which their further transformation depends.