Probably, yes. The development of space exploration could be basically credited to the occurrence of the the second world war. Does that indicate the need for more world wars to advance human civilization?
Anecdotal evidence is inherently flawed here because, no matter what route we had taken, we could always point to whatever we did achieve and say "we wouldn't have that if we had done something else" and not be aware of anything we might have created instead. So it's a kind of evidence that can only support the status quo.
Personally, I think it's obvious that a global communications network was inevitable. The internet was not even the first thing which could be called that. There are various reasons it could actually have benefited us to develop the technology later and/or in a different way. What if we wound up with all data and communications encrypted by default, for example? The internet is great but its existence in its present form is not a proof that society needs to progress through projects undertaken by our department of defense.
The real question is how much *general progress* results from dollars invested in NSF grants etc. verses dollars invested in other ways. That's a difficult enough question that is probably a lot of fair points to be made either way. But by all means lets try to qualify what a dollar of public research spending gets us. We may decide we want to keep public research but still reform how it is set up.