Is the militant group a self-styled Islamic insurgency, or part of a protracted civil war? The answer to that question matters.
New analysis suggests the shadowy insurgency benefited from the 2013 war in Mali, that its leader 'Abubakar Shekau' may be both a single person and the name for a collective leadership, and that the group's ability to destabilize remains strong.
A negotiated swap for the girls makes so much sense.
US efforts on the 300 girls is small and may not help. But it is large enough to start 'mission creep' and get America blamed for a war on Islam. Nigeria claims now to have found the girls.
President Jonathan now calls Boko Haram the 'new frontier' of terror. Yet in doing so he ignores the old and ongoing excesses of his own security forces.
Tuesday's car bombings devastated a market in Jos, Nigeria, where Christians and Muslims have clashed in the past. Boko Haram recently abducted hundreds of schoolgirls.
What started as an elite university student talking shop in the late 1990s has evolved today into a disparate group of radicals, bank robbers and disaffected.
In Maiduguri, extreme poverty, corruption, and ruthless local soldiers helped shape extremist insurgency.
Ending insurgencies is hard, as are needle-in-a-haystack manhunts in lawless areas where distrust of the government and foreigners runs high.
Public protest and social media in Nigeria, and in places like New York and Washington, have created a tipping point for help in recovering the abducted school girls.
The US, Britain, China, and France have all offered help. But they are limited in what they can do on the ground, and Nigeria may hesitate to appear too welcoming of such aid.
President Obama, with teenage girls of his own, has called Boko Haram's kidnapping of more than 250 school girls an 'outrage.' Eight more girls were taken on Tuesday.
Boko Haram threatens to sell hundreds of girls it kidnapped last month. The World Economic Forum on Africa opens in Abuja Wednesday, drawing even more global attention to the crisis.
President Goodluck Jonathan should avail Nigeria of the same international help, for example, used to track and capture Joseph Kony of the Lord's Resistance Army in eastern Africa.