WHAT HAS AMBASSADOR Andrew Young been up to in Africa? He went there, he said, to listen - a sensible approach for a new diplomat in a new administration catering a region where small war that could become large a war is already going on. But when he arrived he began talking and by the [PARAGRAPH ILLEGIBLE] The guerrillas are pleased to fight on. They feel they have Ian Smith on the run, and they are vying for position in the civil war that is widely expected in the post-Smith stage.

How can white Rhodesia hold out? Beyond enlisting Bishop Muzorewa, Mr. Smith hopes to win South African military support against the guerrillas, though surely the South Africans know how unrewarding for them a Rhodesian rescue mission would be. And as absurd as it may seem, Ian Smith may think that the United States will finally come to his side under the banner of anti-communism or racial solidarity. That is why, by the way, he flaunts accounts of guerrilla abductions of school children and murders of missionaries: inexcusable crimes.

So the United States is already in a very tight spot. Ian Smith clings to the old American position, the nationalists to the new. The guerrillas strike, the South Africans shift nervously. Tough questions crowd in.Does it matter to the United States which blacks Ian Smith negotiates majority rule with? Since it does matter, because a negotiation to be valuable must stick, is there still time to compose another majority-rule formula acceptable to blacks that gives reasonable guarantees to whites? How can the overwhelming South African interest in settling the Rhodesian question with less violence rather than more be bolstered of acceptable political cost? If Ian Smith's constituency by its own recklessness forfeits a claim on protection, then would it not be better to say so and to limit the American role to helping work out safe passage for those persons who want it? These questions were being quietly discussed in Washington while Mr. Young was making his African journey. We trust he is now ready to join the discussion.