Heeding Boko Haram's requests might lead to more kidnappings. 

Boko Haram has additional reasons to believe kidnapping can be lucrative. Early last year, a group of its fighters crossed into Cameroon and abducted a French family on safari. Shekau showed off the family — just like he has shown off other hostages — in video obtained by AFP in March 2013. "We are holding them hostage because the leaders of Cameroon and Nigeria detained our women and children under inhumane conditions," he said.

After secret negotiations between Shekau and the Cameroonian government (through intermediaries), Boko Haram released the family near the Nigerian-Cameroon border — reportedly in exchange for a $3 million ransom and the release of 16 Boko Haram prisoners held in Cameroon. By resolving the current crisis and securing the girls' freedom, the government would likely be sowing the seeds of another. But by pursuing the military option, it could endanger the lives of many of the girls, who are thought to have been split into groups and possibly smuggled across the border into Cameroon and Chad.

Even if the Nigerian military tracks down and frees one group, Boko Haram might take revenge by killing others.