Reuben, good post.
I am kinda a fan of John Boyd's work these days, as I think it gives us a good index and model to talk from. (OODA)
Traditional Aikido assumes you're this leet person who can use Aikido from the start while your attacker is starting to attack you no matter how unpredictable, persistent, fast and relentless he is. In my opinion, unless you're really really really good, this is not going to happen easily especially not with a two/three times a week training. Real fact is that for Aikido to work, you need a great ability to read your opponent's moves, something that static training and traditional randoori do not inculcate.
If your really, really good, then you are able to read the situation and control your opponent, or gain control, or regain control fairly rapidly. Your correct, I don't think this is the primary goal or practice of Aikido..that is, to gain such experience, to naturally I think this is where alot of the problem comes in when we try and take dojo methodology to the streets and then get beat cause we simply do not have the experiences necessary to read the situations, and make the appropriate choices in a fast moving and free environment. I think this has little to do with actual waza or technique and alot to do with general body skills and proprioceptive reflex (or something like that!).
It is why "alive" arts practice the clinch so much...not that the clinch is superior in form or technique.
I haven't gotten too many KG in the clinch, but have pulled of Hiji-Jime more than once. As experience level goes up though, it gets harder and harder to do as they learn to protect these things of course! although, add in weapons, and these things amazingly become relevant again!
Thanks for the clarification and good post!