The fiscal cliff, the automatic cuts, the GOP caucus split — all these seem to dominate the news from Washington. But one of the U.S. Capitol’s elder statesmen warned the other day that even tougher issues may lie in Congress’ immediate future.

“All parties should recognize the need for unity in the coming year when events in Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, North Korea and other locations may test American national security in extreme ways,” retiring U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana said.

The valedictory from the senator of 36 years, including a number of them as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, was as usual a bit of good judgment in an overheated political dome. Lugar himself is not leaving the Senate voluntarily but was defeated in a Republican primary by a tea party candidate who went on to lose the general election to a Democrat, Joe Donnelly.

So Lugar did not mince words about his own party, urging Republicans to “suspend reflexive opposition that serves no purpose but to limit their own role in strategic questions and render cooperation impossible.”

Lugar’s speech is timely, even as domestic affairs have become all the rage in Washington. Events in the larger world can move faster than anyone can predict.

What can be safely predicted is that the Senate will someday miss the expertise and common sense of the senior senator from Indiana.