I was never a believer in the theory that Aikido "takes away the opponent's desire to harm you". I much prefer to make him realize that he *can't* harm me...by taking kuzushi on-contact, and using that to control the encounter.
You mentioned Saotome. Have you seen Saotome "matching" his movement with what uke is doing? I haven't. He just enters, does his thing, and uke is thrown.
Have you heard him talk about "matching" or "blending" with an opponent's movement? I haven't.
Though I have heard him (more recently) talk about controlling uke with aiki, using yin and yang and maintaining polarity throughout the body - though that stuff probably belongs in another forum
I agree with you that Aikido does not, "take away the opponent's desire to harm you" certainly not in a physical sense anyway. Personally, I don't care what they realize. They could have an epiphany or scream their brains out it really doesn't matter as long as I can neutralize the threat. I'm in ASU so that is why I mention Saotome sensei. Indeed, I have never heard him mention "matching" but I have heard him speak of blending and leading numerous times over the 20 years I've been in his organization both at seminars and at the shrine. What I am speaking of is different than the "Internal" approach you may be referring to. Finally, I also agree with you that Kuzushi on contact is a worthy goal and one that I share, however just not always possible so one has to continue to have a relationship with the aggressor until the threat is over. Besides, there is more than one way to achieve it.