I really think we should have a dual focus, neither of which involves Mars:
1. Permanent manned presence on the moon. It's ridiculous that we went there, poked around a little bit, and now we have folks saying we should basically forget about it and send manned missions to Mars? Huh? What a crazy waste of an opportunity to test out long-term space solutions nearby, where we can monitor things closely and have round-trip human travel.
2. Robotic exploration and mining of asteroids. It's silly to expect that every visit to every place in our solar system will have to involve people at all times. Asteroid mining may not be a way to get rich quick, but it's a big goal and realistic task that will further advance practical space exploration and travel.
Long-term, both of these tasks have to be privatized, just as airplane flight started primarily as government/military and became commercial. Once we've worked on long-term human habitation beyond earth orbit, and once we've been able to have industrial-scale machinery operating in conditions far from earth, then it would make sense to leave the moon and asteroids to companies and move on to Mars.
I think a lot of the Mars-or-bust folks took away the completely wrong lesson from the moon missions. The moon missions were one of the most inspirational things mankind has ever done, true. But we only half did it. I can't believe anyone alive at the time didn't believe that within 40 years, we'd have a permanent presence on the moon. That idea had been floating around for a century before the moon missions, and was foremost in most of our thinking.
But then, after poking around a bit and doing all kinds of circus tricks (drive a golfball, speed around in a vehicle, etc), we abandoned the moon and set our sights somewhere else. The resulting drop in achievements and public inspiration (including the desire for funding and the desire to enter science careers) is NOT because we didn't have humans going somewhere humans have never been before, risking their lives, it is because we didn't even try to achieve the expected and exciting goal of a permanent presence. We can't look up at the moon and know that people are living and working there.