Owen Smiths comments that we need to get Islamic State (Isis) round the table, have attracted fierce criticism. The suggestion, which many would deem abhorrent offhand, is also unworkable in a practical sense, the groups own leaders will tell you as much.
Regardless of what they may say, democratic governments have negotiated with terrorist organisations before. But none quite like IS.
The principle of negation is based on mutual concessions, and even in the limited private communications between IS figures and Western individuals, the Islamic State have showed no interest in ceding ground.
They simply made demand after demand, many of them straying far beyond the realms of realism â€“ even to the most optimistic of jihadists. Be it a $132 million (Â£100m) ransom in the case of James Foley, or the vast overhauling of US policy in one form or another.
The reality is that negotiation with IS, isnt negotiation in any meaningful sense of the word, it would be a surrendering of sorts. Short of paying their ransoms, which in itself is morally dubious, there is nothing we can offer them short of self-capitulation. To suggest that lowering ransom demands, which has been done, is any meaningful sort of negotiation is rather like convincing a mugger in the street to take only your phone and not your wallet.
Thus the negotiations that figures like Owen Smith speak off, require such a broad definition of the term negotiations that they become worthless at best. This definition even sees the successful paying of ransoms as a successful creation of dialogue, not the capitulating to your enemys demands it truly is. They legitimise and ultimately strengthen groups such as IS.
As the groups spokesperson Abu Mohammed Al-Adnani said in a recording re-released just last week as it appeared Libyan forces would crush the Islamic States Libyan stronghold of Sirte: This Islamic State has learned that the only way to recover our rights is by force. Thus, [ISIS] chose boxes of ammunition, not election boxes and change and getting rid of injustice can never be achieved without the sword. So we insisted on negotiating in trenches, fighting, not in hotels. It would be hard to imagine a stauncher refutation of the principle of negotiating.
Indeed in the 12th edition of the groups online magazine Dabiq, the group even bordered on mocking the suggestion, referring to it as the N-word in an article released soon after the Paris attacks last November and supposedly penned by British hostage by John Cantlie.
Their refusal to concede isnt based on a gung-ho stubbornness, or knowledge of having a trump hidden up a sleeve somewhere.
Johnathan Powell, one of the chief negotiators of The Good Friday Agreement, and author of the compelling Talking to Terrorists, made the simple, if basic, point that if there is a political cause then there has to be a political solution. Whilst this might be have been the case with the IRA, or Columbias FARC rebels, there are several reasons why it cant be applied to IS.
The very thought of compromise runs counter to the groups own ideology. As Adnani himself stated No negotiating, no bargaining, no cajolery, well be persistent, well not retreat, well carry out a relentless war, well never be pliable or give way to the enemy. We announce this sentiment because we are sure of Allah. It would require a fundamental ideological betrayal on their part to provide any meaningful concessions.
Their refusal to concede isnt based on a gung-ho stubbornness, or knowledge of having a trump hidden up a sleeve somewhere. It is rooted in the interpretation of Hadithic and Quranic interpretations as fundamental to the groups religious legitimacy as those that provide the justification for enslaving Yazidis and abstaining from alcohol.
Perhaps Smith believed he was justified in his comments by caveating his call for negotiations with a demand that they must renounce violence. But he fails to realise how integral violence is to the groups nomenclature. Their identity bleeds brutality and to demand this of the group is to demand they morph into a completely different sort of organisation, one that stems its authority from political legitimacy, not its current stick and carrot approach of violence and bribery.
But perhaps there is the potential for talks on the situation in Syria and Iraq. If so, it then becomes a case of with whom should negotiations take place? Surely it must be the ostracised people, primarily Sunnis, suffering under the groups rule that we must invite to the table.
If Owen Smith had advocated getting them round the table, a people starkly absent from almost every International Conference and peace process attempted so far, he might have contributed something meaningful to the debate.