It was because Ueshiba had internal power skills that he could espouse a philosophy of peace (as Rob pointed out). When he realized what it made the body capable of doing without having to resort to "waza," he could just stand there and let his attackers harmlessly bounce off him, or he could choose to do something else with it, expressing it outwardly through whatever techniques he chose to "make happen" -- which were invariably more powerful than technique effected without an internal "force" behind them. The thing is, the internal skills gave him a choice.
Old saying: We bargain from a position of strength, not from one of weakness. We're not in a position to bargain for anything, only to beg for mercy, when someone else's boot is on our throat!
This sounds harsh, but it's Nature, and is true whether talking about a physical confrontation, or a business deal. You have to have an edge; having power -- whether it's physical power, legal power, financial power or psychological/emotional manipulation power -- is that edge, though the latter three apply mainly to society and culture more than to the "Law of the Jungle."
Look, this position is fine and can be justified by looking at normal reality. On some level the majority of people might very well accept some or part of this world view.
But O-Sensei fundamentally did not accept this view. In fact he outright stated in many places that this type of world view leads to destruction. I am not saying you are wrong... I am simply stating that O-Sensei did not believe this to be true and he created Aikido specifically to give us an alternative to this type of thinking. If you belive this is true then Aikido is not the art for you...
Can you do Aikido without buying into O-Sensei's vision? Sure you can. But why would you want to? If that is the world I am living in, then I would do a combat art of some sort. Why in the world would anyone who believes that its all about prevailing over others, that its really about the Law of the Jungle, why would anyone pick Aikido to do? If that's what I believed, I'd call up Ellis Amdur Sensei and ask him to accept me back into the Araki Ryu. That's an art that fits that world view perfectly... that's the precise environment in which it evolved.
O-Sensei had a fundamentally different view. He specifically outlined a "new budo" that was completely different than this in orientation. I can't see any reason one would wish to do Aikido if it wasn't to try to understand his vision... There are certainly styles of Aikido which are not directly concerned with O-Sensei's spiritual ideals. But to the extent that one believes that they are more martial, more geared to towards real confrontation, one has to ask why choose them? Wouldn't some other style be more effective? Wouldn't a focus on weapons training be more realistic since combat has been about weapons since the first cave man bashed someone with a rock? If it's really about fighting, then I ask why Aikido at all?
"Meek" doesn't necessarily imply "weak," however, the kind of "internal power" you and Jen, and George, are talking about is not the internal power being discussed in the threads that perplexed Mary Eastland and caused her to open this thread.
I am quite aware what kind of internal power is being discussed. If I gave the impression that I thought that the power of the non-violent activists I mentioned earlier was of the same sort, then I apologize for being unclear.
It was because Ueshiba had internal power skills that he could espouse a philosophy of peace (as Rob pointed out)
What I meant to say was that there is no essential connection between his having internal power skills and his espousal of a philosophy of peace. There are plenty of people who attained great internal power and did not espouse this view at all and there are plenty of people, some of whom I referred to, who did not have any internal power of the type we are discussing and did choose a non-violent, philosophy of peace as their path.
Internal power is the product of proper training, which I believe Rob, Mike, and Dan have all stated on numerous occasions. Basically, internal power is value neutral, it is a skill but could be used for good or evil. I believe that this was one of the reasons O-Sensei said he didn't want outsiders seeing his art, for fear it would be misused. It is "style neutral" as well in that, as Akuzawa points out, developing these skills will make any martial art more effective.
Aikido as an art requires a kind of letting go of the mind of conflict. I think that Mary, quite correctly in my opinion, was commenting on the fact that these discussions about internal power, while valuable from a certain standpoint, also show that the "mind of conflict" is alive and well in posters from all sides of the debate. While this might be just fine for those folks partaking in these discussions who are not Aikido people, since they never made any protestations about all this peace and love stuff anyway, it certainly shows an issue with many folks vision of what their Aikido is about.
I take the gist of Mary's post as being that, internal power or no internal power, if it isn't about somehow dealing with our own "mind of conflict" than it isn't what she wants from Aikido. I would say that this would have been O-Sensei's position... The art is about fundamentally altering the way in which you see yourself and everyone around you. It isn't about fighting; it's about not even having an enemy...
Don't try to put me in the "non-believer" category on this... I am firmly of the belief that this is important. I've trained, far too briefly, with Mike S and am in awe of his skills. When Akuzawa Sensei cam to Seattle, the seminar was held at my dojo and I had a great, but painful, time with Ark and Rob. These guys are incredible, and as I stated before, are better at what they do than 99% of the Aikido folks one would encounter.
But I am stating that "internal skills" aside, Aikido is a different kettle of fish and that one doesn't understand it as an art simply because one has mastered these skills. On the other hand, without some understanding of these skills, I don't think one can say that ones Aikido has much depth, regardless of what else one can do.