Anyway, when I read Joe's post "Before you can be benevolent and spare people from pain /punishment/retribution you have to be in a position whereby you have the power to exercise your authority to inflict punishment in the first place.", it made me wonder about the whole soft vs hard Aikido debate and how it all relates to the idea of least possible harm when responding to a conflict and whether it's necessary to be in a position to inflict punishment (hard Aikido) in order to not do so (soft Aikido).
I think it is quite possible to learn effective aikido through supersoft training. I used to be in a line of aikido that is super soft... one has to learn to find the structure, both in your own body and in the "body with four legs" that you create together with your partner. That is usually done by hard grips, not letting tori perform the technique so easily. But it can also be done by enhancing your sensitivity... someone who is good at aikido - or at any type of jujutsu-related art - knows there was a flaw in his or her technique without "not being able to perform the throw". With soft training, you can arrive at this sensitivity much earlier.
BUT I think a much smaller group of the people who train in this way, even of those who train for a long time, will eventually reach street effectiveness. One reason... many of them probaby won't be interested. Another, more aggressive/hard training puts you through other things that are useful in stressful situations. It probably conditions your body more. It probably makes you at least a little bit more used to adrenalin rushes.
If your training never is even the least aggressive, the chances that you'll let someone else's aggressiveness overpower will be greater. But I do know of people who were trained in this way, who still managed to use their aikido successfully in real life. They wouldn't manage every situation, of course. OTOH, who would?
(I only threw a glance at the internal/external training thread, but it seemed to contain some good reasoning somewhat along my lines.)