The tactic goes back to ancient times.
The term "scorched earth," according to the (unlinkable) OED is a translation of Chinese phrase jiāotŭ (zhèngcè), with the earliest use in English traced to 1937:
1937 C. McDonald in Times 6 Dec. 12/2 The populace..are still disturbed, in spite of official denials, by wild rumours of a ‘scorched earth policy’ of burning the city before the Japanese enter....One OED example is comic:
1963 P. G. Wodehouse Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves xvii. 135 The kitchen maid..always adopts the scorched earth policy when preparing a meal.If you've read the history at the first link, you might think that comic usage is in bad taste, but then you must never speak of "nuking" things in the microwave.