For states that are fiscally and legally independent but not great powers, much depends on their internal regimes as well as the extent to which they are enmeshed in networks of interdependence. It was extraordinarily difficult even for the great powers, acting through the UN Security Council, to hold Saddam Hussein’s Iraq accountable for its weapons of mass destruction, and in 1998 Iraq expelled the UN inspectors from the country. Self-financing autocracies that do not depend much on the rest of the world, such as North Korea and Myanmar, or that have ample sources of funds with which to purchase goods illegally, such as Iraq under Saddam Hussein, are very hard to hold accountable.
For democratic states involved in multiple relationships of interdependence, control of abuses of power is easier. Negotiation constraints are most important for these states, since even quite powerful states need cooperation from others, even in the absence of institutionalized accountability mechanisms (Keohane and Nye 2001). The more they are enmeshed in networks of interdependence, the more they are likely to try to avoid being out of step with most of their peers, as the example of members of the European Union certainly illustrates (Moravcsik 1998). However, the more powerful the state, the less constraining may be negotiation constraints on any individual issue.
The most complex issues arise with respect to very powerful states with constitutional democratic governments, such as the United States. Such governments are accountable to their citizens and to an array of domestic interests and institutions, but as we have noted, this does not assure accountability to outsiders. Large and powerful states do not depend on subventions from others or on markets, and there is no strong international legal structure governing their actions, despite the incipient International