WITH DEPRESSING regularity, the nations of the world are asked to band together and act as a "community" to care for the least fortunate among them. A few years ago it was Cambodians and Vietnamese, victims of separate Indochina outrages, for whom international relief was sought. Now it is the turn of the several million Africans turned into refugees by a combination of war, civil strife and economic calamity. Many lived harsh lives before they were uprooted. Their situation now is scarcely imaginable.

At a meeting in Geneva the other day on African refugees, the United States offered $285 million, more than half of what all the Western nations pledged. There are various ways to make this contribution look less generous than it is. It is said, for instance, that because the United States has more blacks, naturally it gives more. It is said that this country was looking to demonstrate that it is not neglectful of African refugees. It is said that the Reagan administration saw an opportunity to counter some of the bad publisity its Africa policy had otherwise been receiving. We suggest it would be fairer to say that the United States gave generously and that it did so because this administration, like many of its predecessors, recognizes the country's humanitarian obligations. Why must the motives of the most forth coming donors be picked at?

Why not, instead, examine the motives of those who share in the responsibility for generating the refugees but who accept none of the responsibility for tending to their misery?The Soviet Union and its clients are deeply and directly involved in the conflicts whose human flotsam is now strewn across Africa. They shunned Geneva. It is bad enough that Moscow and its clients do not respond with human feeling and pick up their share of what ought to be regarded as a common international burden. What makes it sting is the readiness of so many Third World nations to let them get away with it. The West, especially the United States, is expected to respond with compassion, if not with guilt. The Soviet Union hides behinds its Merxist clinches and sends in more guns, which create more refugees.